The impact of the blockbuster
Take the Damien Hurst exhibition at Tate Modern in London for example. That seems to have been responsible for a 9% increase in visitors over the previous year. But if you strip out that 9%, then the figures are broadly similar to the numbers Tate Modern had in 2008. In fact without Hurst’s 463,000 visitors, Tate would have been roughly where it was the previous year. How many of those visitors came because they were in London for the Olympics and the jubilee?
In Scotland, the National Museum of Scotland re-opened after a £47 million refit at the end of July 2011. As CD-Traveller reported, 22,000 people came on the first day. That attraction was maintained in 2012 when over 1.8 million people went through the doors. It’s apparent that people will come to see what changes have been brought about.
The new Museum of Liverpool which opened about the same time as the NMS also saw high visitor numbers last year which helped to bring more visitors to Liverpool than at any other time including when it was European Capital of Culture in 2008
Yet if there are no changes or blockbuster exhibitions what happens? Numbers dwindle or remain static and that may be what has happened to the British Museum. Last year it had 5,575,946 visitors. Four years ago it had 5,569,981; an increase of just 5,965 over the period. Yet it remains our most visited attraction.
It shows that attractions can’t just sit back and wait for us to visit them. They have to continually think of new attention-getting exhibitions, different ideas and reasons to shout about themselves.
So what will grab us this year? Athlone Castle in Ireland now that it has been refurbished? The new ride at Alton Towers? Wakefield One which was opened two days ago by Sir David Attenborough? The new Portsmouth museum housing the relics from the Mary Rose or, because of the 200th anniversay of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s house in Chawton? We’ll know this time next year.