Increase in children visiting museums

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The Independent Online

More youngsters than ever before are visiting England's national museums and galleries, government figures published today show.

The Government said it was delighted at the figures, which come after its move two years ago to abolish admission charges for children.

One exhibition, Predators, at the Natural History Museum in London, which opened at the start of the summer holidays last month, attracted double the number of visitors expected on its first day. Predators brought nearly a third more people into the museum during August compared with last year.

Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, welcomed the figures, saying they demonstrated that there was "plenty" for people from both home and abroad to enjoy.

"This shows that our policy to scrap charges for children to visit our national cultural institutions was the right one," she said.

Since admission charges for children were scrapped in April 1999, more than a million extra youngsters have visited "flagship institutions" such as the Imperial War Museum and the Maritime and Science museums in London.

About five million youngsters visited the 17 national museums and galleries in the last year of charging, the figures show. That figure has risen to more than six million in 1999-2000.

"It is essential that all children have access to our national museums and galleries," Ms Jowell said. "No child should be excluded from our national institutions because of the price of a ticket."

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