13 The V&A has embarked on a major redevelopment
of its British Galleries, which account for about ten per cent
of the museum's display space. These galleries house the collection
of objects produced or used in Britain between 1500 and 1900.
The V&A sees the project, which has an estimated cost of £31
million, as a major step in revitalising the museum. The V&A
said that following the increase in visitor numbers in 2000-2001,
it expected the figures to continue to increase with the opening
of the refurbished British Galleries.
The new British Galleries opened on 22 November 2001.
14 The V&A is also planning another projectthe
'Spiral'which is designed in direct contrast to the existing
building and will form both the entrance to the museum and its
centre for contemporary art and culture. The 'Spiral' has an estimated
cost of £80 million and is scheduled to be completed in 2005
at the earliest. The V&A considered that the 'Spiral' would
contribute in a dramatic way to the size of the museum's audience.
15 The V&A told our predecessors that visitor
numbers were particularly affected by the special exhibitions
it put on, and that since the mid-1990s its exhibitions had not
always attracted huge numbers. A series of exhibitions on Fabergé
and jewellery and high value consumption goods would bring in
a lot of people and there had been a number of exhibitions of
that sort, including the recent Art Nouveau exhibition.
16 Numbers were not the only factor the V&A
considered in relation to exhibitions. For example, the Arts of
the Sikh Kingdoms exhibition in 1999-2000, was aimed at a particular
minority community and was never going to be a blockbuster, although
it had done rather better than expected and attracted a large
number of visitors who had not previously been to the V&A
or any other museum. However, the V&A accepted that in future
it needed a better balance between exhibitions that were likely
to appeal to a wider audience and those that were aimed at a narrower
17 The V&A said that it had carried out research
to find out why people did and did not visit the museum, and what
it was they wanted to see. This had shown that some people did
not know what the museum contained; some found the building forbidding;
and some people thought it was not for them. Consultants employed
by the National Audit Office found that some visitors considered
the museum to be 'academic and stuffy'.
18 The V&A's name does not indicate the nature
of its collections. Indeed, its very title may contribute to misconceptions
about those collections.
Asked if it should put more emphasis on being the National Museum
of Art and Design, the V&A accepted that there was a problem
with understanding what the museum did and what it contained,
and that it needed to get better at telling people what was inside
and what it had to offer. It was working with external consultants
on the brand image of the museum. It thought that the V&A
would have to stay as the museum's name, but agreed that the National
Museum of Art and Design 'strapline' was key.
19 The V&A has had difficulty attracting children
and families, and research has shown that awareness of the museum's
Family Programme is extremely low. In 1999 just 14 per cent of
visitors were under the age of 18.
Asked what it was doing to encourage children to visit, the V&A
said that it had some 300 different programmes for children, and
that its activity backpacks had won an award for innovation. The
museum was developing the use of interactive displays, with a
number already established in its cultural courts. The new British
Galleries would contain a range of state of the art interactive
20 Eighty per cent of schools that visited the museum
were from the state sector, which accounted for 90 per cent of
schools in England. In London and the South East, where most schools
visiting the museum were located, 85 per cent of schools were
in the state sector. There was anecdotal evidence to suggest that
independent schools made more museum visits than state schools
and the V&A considered that its schools visits profile was
unlikely to be unusual in this respect. The V&A acknowledged
that it could do more work to establish which schools never visited
21 As regards the social mix of visitors, people
from the C2, D and E socio-economic groups accounted for 13 per
cent of the V&A's visitors in 1999-2000. Information provided
by the Department showed that figures for other national museums
and galleries ranged from 8 per cent at the Tate to 24 per cent
at the National History Museum. The V&A was ranked fifth out
of the eight museums and galleries listed. In oral evidence to
our predecessors the V&A had said that 10 per cent of its
visitors were from these groups and that this was probably better
than most other museums.
About seven per cent of its visitors came from ethnic minorities.
22 The V&A's programme of special exhibitions
is an important factor in determining how successful the V&A
is in attracting visitors to the museum. There is a balance to
be struck between exhibitions aimed at special interests, and
those aimed at wider audiences, but more exhibitions with wider
appeal would provide the museum with an opportunity to show what
else it has to offer.
23 One of the V&A's problems is that potential
visitors do not know what to expect and its very title may lead
to misconceptions about its collections. The V&A says that
it is "stuck with the name" and that it is working on
the brand image of the museum. The museum needs to promote a clearer
understanding among non-visitors of the nature of its collections,
perhaps by making more of its position as the National Museum
of Art and Design.
24 It is important for the future of the V&A
to increase its appeal to younger audiences. The V&A lacked
evidence on the proportion of state schools visiting the museum
compared to other national museums and galleries. The Museum should
work to improve significantly its interactive displays. It should
also determine which schools are not visiting the museum and why,
and promote greater awareness of its Family Programme.
25 The V&A needs to take a closer interest in
its progress, particularly relative to other museums and galleries,
in attracting wider audiences. Information supplied by the Department
for Culture, Media and Sport on the number of visitors from lower
income and disadvantaged groups at other museums and galleries
did not support the V&A's own perception of its relative performance.
Improved management information on the profile of its visitors
26 When the visitor numbers target for 1999-2000
was missed the V&A and the Department agreed to revise the
targets downwards for 2000-01 and 2001-02. The revised targets
were set at the 1998-99 level, with the result that the V&A
was no longer required to achieve the planned 16 per cent increase
in visitor numbers over the period of the Funding Agreement.
27 The Department told our predecessors that Funding
Agreements set out what institutions should deliver in exchange
for the grant-in-aid, and whenever an institution missed its targets
it was called to account. The Department did not automatically
stick to the same targets, because they had to be realistic. In
most cases it adjusted targets upwards because most of its institutions
exceeded their visitor targets. In the V&A's case it had put
the targets down, taking a realistic view, in the light of the
outturn for the previous year, about what was achievable.
28 The V&A's performance, which is reported
to Parliament, is not independently validated. To obtain assurance
for itself, the V&A has asked its internal auditors to validate
its performance data.
The National Audit Office's examination of the V&A's performance
measurement arrangements identified inconsistencies in the way
targets were set and performance measured. For example, the V&A
changed the basis for calculating visitor numbers in 1998-1999
by including, for the first time, 'other' visitors in its definition
which covered visitors who attended the museum for meetings with
the museum's staff. The change resulted in the target being met
when as previously defined it would have been missed.
The V&A told our predecessors that this had been the first
year of the new funding arrangements and the way in which it measured
visitors had not been agreed with the Department. It had taken
the view that visitors who came to the museum to consult the curators
were real visitors to the museum, but acknowledged that the numbers
could have included people who visited for non-academic purposes.
29 Asked if it agreed with this method for counting
visitors, the Department said that it had now made it plain that
people such as contractors, suppliers and corporate hire customers
should not be counted as visitors.
More generally, its aim was to establish a consistent set of definitions
for all the national museums and galleries, and to make sure that
the Department's museums and galleries produced data on an agreed
basis. It considered that this was now the case.
30 The performance of the V&A and the other
national museums and galleries is reported annually to Parliament.
The V&A's internal auditors validate its performance data
to provide assurance to the museum's management. However, the
Department does not have any arrangements in place to provide
external validation of the V&A's performance, or that of the
other national museums and galleries. The inconsistencies identified
by the National Audit Office in the way the V&A's targets
were set and performance measured, including a change of definition
which met the visitor numbers target when it would otherwise have
been missed, show the necessity of validation for credible performance
reporting. As we have previously made clear, we believe that the
Comptroller and Auditor General should undertake this work.
1 C&AG's Report Access to the Victoria and Albert
Museum, (HC 238, Session 2000-2001) para 1.1 Back
Department of Culture, Media and Sport Annual Report 2001 Back
C&AG's Report, paras 1.5, 1.8 and Figure 2 Back
C&AG's Report Back
C&AG's Report, paras 1.8, 2.1-2.2, 2.4, 2.6 and Figure 7A Back
Qs 39-42 Back
C&AG's Report, para 2.6 and Figure 6 Back
Qs 10-11 Back
Qs 99, 106, 109, 158-159; Ev, Appendix 1, p16 Back
C&AG's Report, para 1.6; Q5 Back
Qs 5, 65; Financial Statement and Budget Report March 2001, Chapter
A (not printed) Back
V&A News Release, 1 May 2001, 'New V&A Director announces
museum will go free for opening of new British Galleries' (not
C&AG's Report, para 3.12; Q43 Back
V&A News Release, 22 November 2001, 'New British Galleries
at the V&AG' Back
C&AG's Report, para 3.12; Q43 Back
Qs 1, 29, 33; Ev, Appendix 1, pp 15-17 Back
Qs 1, 29, 33-34 Back
Qs 60-61; C&AG's Report, para 3.6 Back
C&AG's Report, para 3.8 Back
Qs 13, 78 Back
C&AG's Report, paras 3.35, 3.37 Back
Qs 15-16, 45-51 Back
Qs 133-134, 136, 170; Ev, Appendix 1, p17 Back
Qs121-124; Ev, Appendix 1, p16; Ev, Appendix 2, p17 Back
C&AG's Report, para 2.4 Back
Qs 9, 145-146 Back
C&AG's Report, para 11 Back
ibid, paras 2.3, 2.23 Back
Qs 2-3 Back
Qs 2-4 Back