Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 19 MARCH 2001
YOUNG, KCB AND
(Dr Borg) In the current year.
(Dr Borg) We are 13 per cent up.
42. 13 per cent up? Whereabouts does that put
you? We are nearly at the end of the year, where does that put
you? I make it back to something like the level of 1997-98 looking
at the diagram.
(Dr Borg) We are forecasting just short of 1.4 million
43. That is almost back to 1998-99. But you
are still well below 1994-95. I do not doubt your ambitions but
they seem unduly modest.
(Dr Borg) We also believe that the figures will continue
to go up because we are opening later this year the entirely refurbished
British Galleries, which account for ten per cent of the Museum's
display space and we also have in train the proposal, as I mentioned,
to build the Spiral Building which I think will contribute when
it is there in a dramatic way to our audience size.
44. Look at Table 8 on the same page and that
shows the three branch museums. The interesting thing is the aberration.
The other two seem to be following in the example of South Ken,
but then you have the Theatre Museum which has been on an almost
continuous growth chart. Why have they been able to achieve growth
but the other four units not been able to achieve growth?
(Dr Borg) I think there are a number of reasons for
the success of the Theatre Museum. One, perhaps most importantly,
is its location. It is set in the heart of Covent Garden in the
heart of theatre land in a very much visited part of London. Therefore
the possibility of drop-in visitors is much higher than it is
at South Kensington or certainly Bethnal Green, for example, but
it is also true to say that the Theatre Museum has had a good
and imaginative educational programme which has also brought visitors
45. It is a highly competitive field, is it
not, trying to draw visitors in? There are so many visitor attractions
and youngsters, particularly nowadays, are used to being pandered,
and quite rightly, with hands-on experience, they learn a lot
more in that way rather than inanimate, stodgy exhibits. What
scopeand I recognise it varies from sector of market to
sectorhave you discovered, if any, for hands-on approaches
in your own operations?
(Dr Borg) Quite a number and an increasing number.
I have already referred to the educational programmes we use,
the backpacks, the activity cart in which children make things
related to the collections. We also have tours for, for example,
the visually impaired where people can handle sculpture and can
pick up objects. I think all of those sort of experiences are
very important within the Museum generally.
46. Turning to Page 33 and looking at Figure
23, activity backpacks, to which you have just referred. These
are aimed at 5-to-11 year olds, a good age to capture youngsters
and get their imagination, and are designed to help families move
around the Museum and to explore themes connected with the collections.
There are 36 packs in total. I do not know these packs but is
it one pack per person. Is a pack something that is individual
to one visitor?
(Dr Borg) That refers to the programme that the pack
contains. If you come you are given a particular programme to
follow, and there are 36 of those.
47. That is not limited.
(Dr Borg) I am informed there are now 50, and they
are increasing all of the time.
48. 50 programmes?
(Dr Borg) Yes.
49. How many people at one time would be able
to go round with the aid of these backpacks?
(Dr Borg) Probably about 50.
50. That is not particularly market oriented,
(Dr Borg) This is dealing on a one-to-one basis.
51. That is what I said in the first place,
and you said that I was misunderstanding you. If you are talking
about attracting youngsters in and you only have three dozen of
these visitor aids it does not look as if you will have a highly
optimistic view of the numbers you are likely to attract, does
(Dr Borg) That is only one of the activities we provide
for children, we provide many others.
Mr Williams: I am sure they are equally exciting.
My time is up, thank you very much.
52. If you look at Figure 7, page 17 it is quite
clear, as has been mentioned by previous members of the Committee,
that the number has declined since 1994. It has not been a constant
drop, has it? If you look at the chart it tends to have gone up
one year and gone down the next year, gone up the next year and
then gone down the next year, until eventually it has reached
its low in 1999-2000. Can you explain this peculiar pattern?
(Dr Borg) The pattern is due, almost exclusively,
to the varied number that attend temporary exhibitions. Table
22 on page 32 demonstrates it visually.
53. What you are saying is in the years it goes
up it is because you have put something on and in the years it
has gone down you have not bothered to do anything extra.
(Dr Borg) In all years there are temporary exhibitions,
but some are better attended than others.
54. I see. What you are saying is in the years
that actually improved there were popular exhibitions taking place
and in the years that it declined there were not. Why does it
have a pattern like that? Do you plan specifically to have a popular
exhibition one year and not a popular exhibition the year after?
(Dr Borg) We plan to have good exhibitions all of
the time. We are aware that some are going to appeal to a wider
audience and some to a narrower audience. We see it as part of
the remit of the V&A to appeal to all of our audiences, including
putting on exhibitions, sometimes directed at what we know is
quite a small audience.
55. Okay. In the years that it seems to rally
does that give you a false hope?
(Dr Borg) I do not think it is gives us a false hope
because we are, on the whole, reasonably good, and occasionally
not, at forecasting what we think attendance at exhibitions is
going to be.
56. Even so, the figures have declined something
like, half a million people over the last 6 years. Whether the
exhibitions have been good, bad or indifferent, the fact of the
matter is that half a million people less are coming into the
(Dr Borg) That trend is reversed now and the figures
are going back up. We believe that the opening of the British
galleries and the opening of the Spiral building, when that is
constructed, will boost our figures very dramatically.
57. If you look at paragraph 2.7, that does
not give you a lot of confidence in the management, does it? It
says that in the years 1999-2000 there is a marked drop in visitor
numbers. This was quite apparent six months into the year and
yet nothing was done to find out why. Why was that? If you saw
in that year that your numbers were dramatically falling and it
took six months to take some action, why did you take so long?
(Dr Borg) On the whole we are aware of the reasons
why an exhibition does not attract visitors. Taking remedial action
is something that is done in the longer term. Museums are, if
you like, like oil tankers at sea, they cannot be turned round
in a matter of moments.
58. With great respect, it has been in decline,
if you like, in terms of numbers for six years, that is quite
a considerable length of time to try and turnaround the oil tanker,
is it not?
(Dr Borg) Absolutely. That trend is now reversed and
the longer term measures which we put in place, the refurbishment
of the British galleries and the building of the Spiral building,
are what will contribute to a permanent reversal of that trend.
59. Is this borne out in research that you have
(Dr Borg) Yes.