Byline: ROBIN STRINGER
THE blockbusting arrival of Tate Modern on Bankside has helped visitor figures to London's national museums and galleries shoot up 20 per cent during the last financial year.
Culture Secretary Chris Smith is optimistic that the trend will continue.
"Following the recent Budget announcement on scrapping admission charges, I look forward to even better visitor numbers next year," he says.
Assuming that he achieves free admission to all the national museums and galleries - those that get Government subsidy - by the end of the year, then he may be right. And there are other reasons for optimism too.
Despite the recent rash of museum developments backed by the Lottery, there are still more to come. At one end of the scale is the Natural History Museum's [pound]100million Darwin Centre due to open in the summer of 2002.
At the other is the refurbishment of the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill now in progress. Its four-month closure accounts for a fall in visitor figures from 190,000 in 1999-2000 to 120,000 in the following year.
Only two other London museums saw a drop in visitors in 2000-2001 compared with the previous year: the Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The maritime museum's drop may be …