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Brits to favour ‘big name’ museums and galleries this summer with smaller institutions set to continue to struggle

People across the UK are planning a massive 66m trips to museums and galleries this summer, as lockdown lifts and beloved institutions across the country reopen their doors. But according to new consumer research commissioned by Art Fund – the national charity for art – the vast majority (65%) of people who are planning to visit a museum or gallery this summer will do so to one of the top ten biggest museums in the UK, compared with just 39% who said they would visit one of the 2,000-plus smaller venues across the country.

Eight of the ‘top ten’ museums and galleries in the UK are based in London however, and the data suggests that there could be a regional disparity in museums’ fortunes, with large, London-based institutions enjoying a busy and successful re-opening, while smaller, regional museums and galleries continue to struggle.

To help local museums have a successful reopening, Art Fund has this week launched the innovative Art Pass Unbooked – which brings together hundreds of museums and galleries from across the UK in one place for the first time. It is a one-stop cultural shop, showing users museums and galleries near to them, ticket availability, and allows them to book there and then.

Art Pass Unbooked

While many will be favouring larger museums and galleries this summer, the research shows that there is still a lot of concern among the public around the survival of smaller ones. Indeed, 48% say it would be a ‘tragedy’ if smaller museums and galleries were to close and if they were to, the country could lose some of its most valuable cultural assets.

Data from Art Fund shows that smaller museums and galleries desperately need the support of the public to get back on their feet. Indeed 55% of museums and galleries across the country – the vast majority of which are smaller operations – remain concerned about their long term survival.

Despite most people saying they plan to visit larger museums, galleries and attractions this summer, many have concerns about what they will face. Nearly two thirds (62%) say they expect to encounter long queues due to the combination of COVID measures and increased demand. Nearly half (43%) expect to see price hikes as venues attempt to recoup lost earnings. Demand will also be an issue – one in five (20%) say that they have already tried to book an event or attraction in the UK this summer and found it to be sold out. It’s worth checking availability and booking in advance especially popular destinations like Bodleian Library.

Art Pass Unbooked is also aimed at helping to address this issue, allowing users to find nearby museums that have tickets available – helping them beat the queues for entry expected at the larger institutions. And for those who have a National Art Pass – the cost of which goes right back into supporting museums and galleries – entry to hundreds of museums is free or reduced-price, and many major exhibitions can be enjoyed for half price.

Jenny Waldman, Art Fund director, said:

“As the country opens up, there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel as people begin visiting museums again. Our new research shows that many visitors expect to encounter crowds and queues. To open up the possibilities and support local museums and galleries across the UK, we have launched Art Pass Unbooked. This is a one stop shop for culture, allowing users to search among hundreds of museums and galleries, find availability, and book a spontaneous day out. It’s the perfect way to get a culture fix, avoid the big crowds, and support these vital institutions.

“Our research also shows that the vast majority of trips planned this summer will be to the bigger name institutions. But I’d urge people not to forget about their local museums and galleries over the summer and to support them as they recover. Smaller, local museums offer an incredible array of collections, exhibitions and activities and staycations are the perfect opportunity to discover the UK’s amazing local museums. “

Things to do in Oxfordshire this Summer

Museums and galleries

Ashmolean Museum (Free to all)

  • Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace

  • Woodstock, Oxfordshire
  • Oriel Square, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Aston Martin Museum (Free entry)
  • Drayton St Leonard, Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Pitt Rivers Museum (Free to all)
  • Oxford, Oxfordshire
Bodleian Library (Free to all)
  • Broad St, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Modern Art Oxford (Free to all)
  • 30 Pembroke St, Oxford, Oxfordshire
  • 14 Park St, Woodstock. Oxfordshire
History of Science Museum (Free to all)
  • Oxford, Oxfordshire
  • University of Oxford, St Aldate’s, Oxford, Oxfordshire
  • Market Pl, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  • St Aldate’s, Oxford, Oxfordshire
  • Parks Rd, Oxford, Oxfordshire


Tokyo: Art & Photography

  • Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
  • Until 3 January 2022
  • Waddesdon, Aylesbury
  • Until 17 October 2021
  • Waddesdon, Aylesbury
  • Until 31 October 2021

Anish Kapoor: Painting (Free to all)

  • Modern Art Oxford, Oxford
  • 2 October 2021 – 13 February 2022
  • Modern Art Oxford, Oxford
  • Until 5 September 2021

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