Letter: Museum charges

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Sir: Your report of the Policy Studies Institute study (1 December) states that expensive capital building projects make admission charges to museums inevitable. Not so.

The Manchester Museum comprises a magnificent range of Gothic revival buildings which contain one of the finest collections of Egyptology and natural history outside London. But there has been no investment in these buildings since 1927. Consequently they are unfit to make those collections fully accessible and provide the services that our visiting public has a right to expect.

The pounds 12m we have secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund provides the means for making this museum more financially self-sufficient in the long run. Better services and better displays will mean more visitors to see collections that are better researched and conserved. They will spend more in our enlarged shop and in our new cafe, and will pay to see major shows in our enlarged temporary exhibition gallery. Local companies will hire our facilities for corporate hospitality. This additional income will enable us to maintain our 110-year tradition of free admission.

The debate on free admission has focused far too much on the London national museums. In Manchester alone, four museums attract three-quarters of a million visitors annually. Three of these museums give free admission. The Heritage Lottery Fund's investment will widen access and ensure financial viability for the benefit of present and future generations.

TRISTRAM BESTERMAN

Director

The Manchester Museum

Manchester

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