Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?

Last updated: March 9, 2017

Many museums are currently free, however this does not mean that they don’t have costs. Should we instead of seeing museums as being a free day out instead see them as an attraction that we need to decide the value of our visit for and give appropriately.

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
Yes because...

People are wiling to pay, but do not

Compulsory admission charges were dropped by most British national museums in 2001. Since then, collection boxes have been placed asking people to make a voluntary donation. This is relatively passive and people will often walk by unthinkingly. However, when they have to pay for a special exhibit, they are more than happy to pay the compulsory charge. Museums are losing money by allowing people in for free when they would actually readily pay the money if asked more proficiently. These people would pay if the asking for a voluntary fee was more apparent, it is for this reason that a more intrusive voluntary charge is the way forward.
No because...
On the flip side of this, people who don't want or can't afford to pay may misinterpret the request for a voluntary donation as being a compulsory fee disguised as voluntary, or may not have the willpower to resist a pushy museum attendant.

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
Yes because...

There is a cost to pride

If people were asked to pay a voluntary fee by a person in a uniform, shame would make them pull something out of their pockets. The well dressed would feel compelled to make a donation to maintain their apparent social status. On the other hand, people who really could afford to give nothing would feel no shame in stating that they were not willing to pay; students are a perfect example of this. This is a win win situation as people would pay whatever price they placed on their shame. Obviously there is no shame in not paying when you cannot afford to, but there is plenty of shame in not paying when you are well able to.
No because...
Many poor people feel the same pride - and they will feel compelled to pay for admission even when they can't really afford to, because of this pride. For instance, an unemployed person who wants to avoid the stigma of being a scrounger.

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
Yes because...

It will encourage the young to see the value of such buildings

Currently, with the museums being free, the young could cynically see museums as a cheap day out for cash strapped parents. However, if a voluntary admission fee was set, in New York it is $20, youngsters would see the value that people place on the information contained in that building. They will therefore be more likely to pay attention to what is inside.
No because...

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
Yes because...

The poor were not encouraged to visit museums after they were made free

When Labour scrapped the admission charges, the idea was to stop museums being middle class enclaves. They wanted poorer families to attend museums more frequently, and they believed it was best to scrap the admission charge. However, statistics have shown that whilst there has been an 87% increase in attendees, there has only been a 2% increase in the proportion of attendees who were from the poorest half of society. [[Richard Morrison, The Times, 22 September 2009]] This means that it is in fact the middle classes, who can afford the fees, who have benefitted from free admission. Surely, to stop these people easily capitalizing on the museums generosity, a more aggressive sales route to get people to pay the voluntary donation would be well placed.
No because...

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
Yes because...

Public funds showing bias towards certain art forms

By making tax payer contributions fund galleries and museums in order to keep them open for free, Government is showing an inherent bias towards certain art forms and information. It does not fund theatres or music concerts, only galleries and museums. This is inflicting the public with the view that visual history and arts are more valuable than those that incorporate sound and other modes of expression. All art forms should be given the same amount of funding to prevent this bias. Therefore, aggressive fundraising for museums at their front entrance would alleviate this apparent bias and would lessen the amount of public funds used to keep these buildings open.
No because...

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
No because...

Education should be free

Surely the greatest thing about Britain is it’s meritocratic standpoint on education. Everyone should enjoy education, regardless of their wealth. Museums and galleries are a source of knowledge for people who cannot afford books and the like. Even schools, whilst they may be free, the revision guides that aid people in their studies cost money. If we take away our free museums and start harassing people to make a ‘voluntary’ donation it will be yet another blow to Britain’s meritocracy.
Yes because...
Education is not free in the real world, face it. Even if state schools provide no fee for the parents and students, someone has the pay for the staff, for the equipment, for the maintenance, there are countless costs. Nothing in life is completely free! Everyone knows that. Besides, museums are much more than an educative visit. They provide an interactive experience as well, just look at modern museums such as the Science Museum in London, which everyone thoroughly enjoys.
I would also like to point out that the opposition has failed to detect the difference between 'encourage' and 'harass'. Encourage does not suggest a violent or forced nature.

Should visitors to museums be “encouraged” to pay a voluntary entrance fee?
No because...

You cannot put a price on unbiased information

Museums are buildings that house unbiased information which you cannot find in the media. Television, books and the internet, whilst can be found in free libraries, are not unbiased. In fact these forms of information can be quite detrimental to a person’s learning if this is their only source of information. Museums and galleries provide unbiased information. They contain fact and aesthetic truths. People can see with their own eyes instead of relying on what a commentator has pronounced on the subject. This should remain free, and we should not risk people abstaining from this form of education due to a pressure exerted upon them to make a ‘voluntary’ donation.
Yes because...
How can a museum be guaranteed to be unbiased? Their choice of what to display, and the information they write about it next to the exhibits, is not going to be free of ulterior motive. For instance, they may be given a large donation by someone who wants to exhibit a certain thing, or show the exhibits that bring in the most money, or not show a certain type of art or bring up a certain period of history at a time when it would be politically controversial - or show it deliberately to cause controversy.


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