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The museums and galleries core funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport raised over £100 million in addition to their government grant last year. They used this income to help them invest in their collections, buildings and facilities and to promote access to their collections through financing touring exhibitions, education, and outreach work. Today’s report to Parliament by head of the National Audit Office Sir John Bourn concludes that, while there is scope to do more, the museums and galleries have become increasingly successful at generating their own income.

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The National Audit Office report covers 17 museums and galleries sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. These range in size from the Geffrye Museum with 80,000 visitors a year to Tate with around 6 million visitors a year. The report makes recommendations aimed at helping the museums and galleries build on their success and generate more income in the future. It contains many interesting examples of innovative projects and approaches drawn from the sponsored museums and galleries and other similar organisations both in the UK and abroad.

Museums and galleries generate income from a wide range of activities including retailing, catering, e-commerce, corporate entertainment and special exhibitions. Fundraising is the primary source of income, generating £68 million in 2002-03 which was mainly tied to specific campaigns and projects. Trading activities generated £22 million and other income, for example from charges for admission to temporary exhibitions, totalled a further £18 million.

Most of the museums and galleries expect to increase their self-generated income over the next few years with around half predicting substantial growth from activities including fundraising, venue hire, catering, product licensing and retailing. The NAO found that although the museums and galleries are involved in a number of creative schemes they may need to do more to encourage an entrepreneurial culture. The museums and galleries recognise the need to develop their skills for income generation and the NAO report makes a number of recommendations aimed at encouraging better management and planning and improving museums’ financial information so that they are better able to identify and grasp opportunities, measure the profitability of their activities and manage risk. The NAO also recommends that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport continues to work with the museums and galleries to help them learn from one another, which would benefit the smaller museums particularly.

"Museums and galleries are already engaged in a variety of income generating activities, and they see real potential for growth in new and existing areas. By developing the appropriate skills and culture they will be better placed to improve on their existing efforts and maximise the potential of new activities such as the provision of on-line services and products. Such increases in self-generated income will allow museums and galleries to both achieve their missions and serve the public even better."

Sir John Bourn


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