Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Museum Visitor Levels Fall despite Exhibition

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Museum Visitor Levels Fall despite Exhibition

Article excerpt

Byline: DANIEL HOLLAND Local democracy reporter @danhollandnews

VISITOR numbers to Tyne and Wear's museums have plunged by almost 50,000 in a year when the Great Exhibition of the North should have provided a major boost.

New figures confirm that 3% fewer people set foot inside the region's museums and galleries in 2018/19 than in the previous 12 months, as the cultural attractions missed visitor targets by more than 150,000.

The poor performance has been partly blamed on lengthy closures at The Great North Museum: Hancock for the installation and removal of its Great Exhibition attraction.

Newcastle Liberal Democrat leader Anita Lower said previous claims from organisers that the cultural festival achieved and exceeded its visitor targets "don't stack up" with the final museum visitor numbers.

In a new report, museum bosses also say last summer's hot weather and the World Cup contributed to the disappointing performance.

There were 1.29 million visits to the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) sites in 2018/19, covering the Discovery Museum, the Hancock, Hatton Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Shipley Art Gallery, Stephenson Railway Museum, South Shields Museum, and the Segedunum and Arbeia Roman forts.

That marked a dip from 1.34 million in 2017/18 and was well below the target of 1.45 million set by TWAM bosses for what they expected would be a bumper year.

And while the popularity of Stephenson's Rocket brought more viewers to the Discovery Museum, other sites across the region have suffered.

The biggest dip in performance was at the two locations managed by Newcastle University - the Hancock and the Hatton - where combined visitor numbers fell dramatically from 507,108 to 429,835.

Footfall across the museum sites was strongest in July and August, the key months of the Great Exhibition, but was poorer than the previous year in every other month and consistently behind target levels. …

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