Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 99)



  80. Yes.
  (Dr Borg) It is for everyone.

  81. Everyone?
  (Dr Borg) Yes.

  82. The Chairman said in his opening questions that numbers have been falling since the mid-1990s. As has already been mentioned this afternoon, in 1996 admission charges were introduced. I was going to ask whether they were related but answers you have given already suggest you think they are related.
  (Dr Borg) Certainly anything which is free one day and charges the next is going to experience an effect.

  83. What do you think the effect would be in terms of numbers? What analysis have you done of the effect?
  (Dr Borg) We believe that between eight and ten per cent of our visitors fell away when we introduced charges.

  84. And who were they[5]?

  (Dr Borg) I do not think we know precisely who they were but we would imagine they were those groups of people who were on the one hand opposed to museum charges on principle or who were only marginally interested in coming to the Museum and would be put off by a charge. We know that they were not children because we never charge children nor were they students because we never charge students.

  85. But they might be the parents of children who had to pay.
  (Dr Borg) That is possible.

  86. Also they were perhaps people who were on the margins of deciding whether or not to go to museums so they would be precisely the people that you would want to attract if you were going to substantially increase your numbers.
  (Dr Borg) Yes.

  87. Your target audience, if you were to start from scratch, is exactly the group that could have been hit quite hard by admission charges?
  (Dr Borg) Yes.

  88. Let me ask you about non-visitors because I am a little bit confused. You have repeated a couple of times this afternoon that you have done some research into why would-be visitors did not come to the Museum, but Paragraph 3.4 in the Report says that that research has not been done. Can you clarify that for me.
  (Dr Borg) It was just starting as the Report was concluding, so to speak, and has been carried out and finished since the Report appeared.

  89. So that has taught you some quite important lessons and you have actioned some changes to put that right, have you?
  (Dr Borg) Yes, it will affect the marketing plan but I would have to say that the research on the whole confirmed what we already knew—that people were not coming because they felt, for whatever reason, that the Museum was not relevant to them.

  90. Does that mean that you would be looking to bring in changes that could, as far as was possible, change the Museum so that it did relate to them, having started with the answer to my question as to who is the museum for you that it was for everyone?
  (Dr Borg) The answer is yes but that will not necessarily increase our numbers. I go back to the example which is highlighted in the Report of the Art of the Sikh Kingdoms. That brought in people from the Sikh community who were not otherwise coming to the Museum but it did not increase the overall numbers because the numbers concerned were not that large.

  91. You have mentioned that particular exhibition a couple of times. The Report gives the impression that not sufficient has been done to encourage participation from under-represented communities and one would assume, correct me if I am wrong, that perhaps ethnic minorities were part of that community. Are you putting too much store on that particular exhibition where you might get visitors through the door for that but they would not become frequent or regular attenders at the Museum, which is presumably what you are looking for, people to come back again?
  (Dr Borg) It is certainly what we are looking for. Can you point me to where?

  92. Paragraph 3.34 I think. It says: "However, while exhibitions can be successful in attracting new visitors it does not follow that visitor numbers in the target group will be sustained", which I think is the point you are making.
  (Dr Borg) That is absolutely right. In the case of that particular exhibition and other similar exhibitions we have followed up on those communities. For example, we now have a number of Sikh Friends of the Museum, we have people from the Sikh community who come in and act as guides. We work with that community and other communities, the Chinese community and South East Asian community, to increase their presence in the Museum.

  93. So the concern implied in the Report is not a fair concern or is it something that you are addressing?
  (Dr Borg) I think one can clearly always do more. What I would say is that I believe that the Victoria and Albert Museum does as much, if not more, with minority community and educational work within those communities than any other museums in this country.

  94. Are the late night sessions that are referred to in the Report the same thing as contemporary evenings?
  (Dr Borg) The Friday late nights are contemporary evenings; the Wednesdays are not.

  95. How many people who come along to late night sessions are new visitors and how many people who come to contemporary evenings are new visitors to the Museum?
  (Dr Borg) The Wednesday evenings tend to produce what we would call our core audience of return visitors. The contemporary Friday evenings which now bring in 1,000 visitors each evening is a very largely new audience.

  96. How do you know? Do you ask them?
  (Dr Borg) We can ask them but you can simply tell by looking at them. The age range is quite different. One of the problems of the V&A is that the average age of the traditional visitor is 30s and 40s; the Friday nights bring in teens and 20s.

  97. I will be careful what I say, Chairman, but if I set off on my canvassing in a few weeks' time and someone answers the door to me am I to make same assumptions about their voting habits? Because if I am not here in a few months' time you will know your theory has not worked. Okay. I shall take that as an answer. I am just worried about whether or not you have the statistical information at your disposal to make the analysis which is necessary to make the planning for the future and whether you are making assumptions about people who come through. You gave me the impression that you were looking at them and saying these are the kind of people we expect to see, those are not, therefore tonight might be working.
  (Dr Borg) We survey visitors. What I was saying was that you can also simply tell by looking at them that they are a different sort of visitor.

  98. Returning to Mrs Steinberg, she is one of the potential audience who has misconceptions about the nature of the Museum's collection which I think you have agreed can exist. What are you doing about that?
  (Dr Borg) As I said, Mrs Steinberg came ten years ago and I think she would find the layout of the Museum and display of the Museum, especially on the ground floor that you first see, much more memorable than perhaps she found it when she came then.

  99. How many visitors do you get from overseas? What proportion of your visitors are from overseas?
  (Dr Borg) It varies throughout the year but it can be over 50 per cent.

5   Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 15 (PAC 00-01/127). Back

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