Free entry to museums?
It was interesting to read that Peter Lacey thinks free entry should be given to all museums, quoting that this is now the policy of the Australian Museum.
Before commenting on his suggestion, could I point out that there is an error in his letter as the Australian Museum is only giving free entry for a limited time to celebrate its reopening after extensive refurbishment and that tickets still have to be purchased to view special exhibitions.
So far I have not been able to ascertain what "alternative ways" are being used to cover running costs for this very large organisation during this period. I would be grateful if Peter could detail these for the benefit of local museums that depend on modest entrance fees to fund maintenance of the buildings, the expenses of conserving and displaying the collections, compilation of historical archives and photographs and providing research access to the community.
These volunteer-run museums are repositories of local history but need money to look after material that has been given to them for safe keeping and need money to keep them open so all the community can view and appreciate the collections.
Grant applications, fundraising events, seeking sponsorship and financial donations are all avenues that are used by museum committees to obtain finance, but entrance fees provide a vital income stream until someone can ensure other reliable "alternative ways" to keep them operating. All relevant advice is welcome.
Shirley Bazley, Merimbula Old School Museum
Ill-informed attack on museums
The irreplaceable but often unrecognised efforts of volunteers across our region endeavouring to ensure survival of our cultural heritage has suffered a public attack.
In an ill-informed letter to the editor, President of the South Coast History Society Peter Lacey called on local museums to can their admission charges.
Although ostensibly based on the Australian Museum's decision to remove entry fees, his argument shows absence of research, reliance on cherry-picked information and lack of understanding about associated issues. Public exhibitions are only a small part of museum responsibilities - they stand and fall by the way their collections are grown, developed and cared for.
As the International Council of Museums (ICOM) noted, collecting and conserving precede all other museum functions.
In his argument, Mr Lacey fails to recognise that:
1: The Australian Museum's primary operational revenue comes from recurrent NSW State Government funding which, in 2018, amounted to over $22million;
2: The Australian Museum's free general admission will be limited in duration;
3: The zero charge doesn't extend to special events;
4: In 2018-19, 31% of the Australian Museum revenue came from admission fees;
5: Local museums have existing and ongoing annual financial responsibilities - including rent, maintenance, rates, utilities, insurances, exhibitions, research and retail inventory;
6: The 2018 NSW Museum and Gallery Sector Census showed admission fees were among the most cited sources of NSW community museum revenue;
7: Collection preservation, conservation and storage - the intergenerational equity obligation of protecting and preserving the past to benefit future generations - attracts further significant costs;
10: Most of our local museums have lost more than six months' admission income this year and are only just now moving towards reopening, so are likely to suffer potentially disastrous repercussions without additional support.
Recovery will be difficult and Mr Lacey's letter does little to assist in ensuring the future survival of our irreplaceable movable cultural heritage collections.