Edinburgh's museums and galleries see income soar after cut in opening hours reversed

Seven-day opening brings increase in visitors

Monday, 14th September 2020, 7:30 am
The Museum of Childhood and the other five venues have seen income and visitor numbers increase with seven-day opening

INCOME from Edinburgh’s city-run museums and galleries have almost doubled after the council reversed a cut in opening times.

The six venues, including the City Art Centre and the Museum of Childhood, also saw a big increase in visitors, with numbers vitising the City Art Centre rising by 108 per cent.

Politicians across the parties welcomed the success of seven-day opening and culture convener Donald Wilson said the venues should return to that pattern once Covid restrictions were lifted.

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Opening times were cut from six or seven days a week to just five in October 2016 as part of a cost-cutting plan.

But visitor numbers fell by an average 21 per cent and as much as 32 per cent at the City Art Centre. Income from retail sales and donations fell by 25 per cent.

And after a review it was agreed to introduce seven-day opening, 10am-5pm, at all the venues - the Museum of Edinburgh, the People’s Story, Museum of Childhood, Writers’ Museum and Queensferry Museum as well as the City Art Centre from June 2018, initially as a pilot for 12 months.

Now figures show an overall increase of 40 per cent in visitor numbers to all six venues - from 219,542 for June-November 2017 to 307,744 in the same period of 2019.

City Art Centre visitors shot up from 23,337 to 48,743.

And a report to tomorrow’s culture committee notes: “The income generated from retail sales, venue hire and donations at the six venues has almost doubled since 2017/18.”

The figure rose from £238,895 in 2017/18 to £445,417 in 2019/20.

There has also been an increase in projects which the museums and galleries have undertaken with community and school groups.

Councillor Wilson said the move to seven-day opening had been “a real step forward” in ensuring venues were open when people wanted to visit them.

“The previous experiment didn’t work at all and there were lots of complaints - people didn’t like the fact venues were not open when they wanted to go.

“It’s important, even though we have a very different situation now with the pandemic, to note that was a very important step forward and that’s what we want to get back to once this is all over.”

Tory culture spokesman Max Mitchell said: “This is good news among all the doom and gloom we have just now.

“It shows they made a mistake and it was a false economy to cut hours to save money, whereas a little bit of investment has gone quite a long way, visitor numbers are up and income has increased quite substantially. It’s a win win.”

And Green culture spokesman Alex Staniforth also welcomed the success of the new opening times.

“I argued in the past that cuts to museum and gallery hours were a false economy and supported the department in going back to a seven day week for museums so I am delighted to see the expanded hours have been a big success.

“Obviously, the last six months have been a challenge for all of our venues but I am sure that our cultural collections will look forward to growing popularity in the years ahead and I am confident our cultural team is ready to face the challenges ahead.”

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