I think there is literally nothing about this article that doesn’t make me seethe with anger. It is snobbish, elitist, and harks back with some sentimentality to the good old days when museums weren’t attempting to appeal to wider and more diverse audiences, weren’t asking themselves, “what can we do to make our exhibitions accessible to the vast majority of people in this country that haven’t studied Classics or have at least a spattering of Latin and Ancient Greek?” And, dare I say? More fun.
Writing for the arts section of the Independant, Adrian Hamilton acknowledges that:
"there is little doubt that the change in policy after free entry has immeasurably improved gallery going"
But this only serves to unsettle him it seems, that museums are being - gasp - made more accessible to non-experts and people who have a desire to learn about objects, periods, people they haven’t encountered in their working-class education. Hamilton implicitly lets it boil down to this by earlier referring to the educated middle-classes in opposition to these “normal’ visitors, who read captions - double gasp - an activity deemed “vulgar to the more aesthetic minds”.
Having acknowledged that free entry has improved visitor numbers and bemoaning the costs of ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions, audioguides and catalogues, Mr. Hamilton wraps up by suggesting that consideration be given to:
[…] the reintroduction of fees for museums. Children could remain free, the elderly given concessions and, like India and other Asian countries, ratepayers and taxpayers could be given lower priced access.
So that would just leave students, foreigners and the unemployed then? Great!
Goodness knows what terrible experience Mr. Hamilton has endured in a British museum in the last days to move him to switch from his normal emphasis on “international affairs with particular focus on the Middle East, Iran and foreign policy issues” to museum economics and their temporary exhibitions. Perhaps he made the grave error of hoping for a personal audience with the Rosetta Stone on a Saturday morning when it was raining outside? Perhaps he didn’t show up early enough to get the 11.15am slot he wanted for the Grace Kelly exhibition at the V&A? Perhaps we will never know.