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Museums 'thrive on business approach'

MUSEUMS have increasingly become businesses, selling their services to the public, according to a report from the Policy Studies Institute, published today.

The report on the financing of museums shows that museums' self-generated income, including sponsorship and donations, but also gift shops, restaurants and reproductions, rose from pounds 28.6m in 1989 to pounds 46.7m over the last financial year. It represents a fifth of their income.

The institute notes concern that treating museums as businesses inevitably gives rise to some museums giving priority to attracting visitors above all other considerations, risking sacrificing their standards of scholarship. But most have in no way compromised their standards.

It adds that the larger of the national museums are multi-million pound enterprises needing 'a sound business approach to their operations'.

In London overseas visitors accounted for 44 per cent of all visitors to museums. The figure for England as a whole was 23 per cent, with 19 per cent in Scotland, 13 per cent in Wales and 18 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Central government spending on museums and galleries doubled between 1985 and 1992 from pounds 103m to pounds 202m. However, there has been no increase in that time in the pounds 9.04m purchase grant for buying works of art.

Cultural Trends 14; Policy Studies Institute; 0800 262260; pounds 15.