Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
MONDAY 19 MARCH 2001
YOUNG, KCB AND
100. Again you would survey them rather than
make a guesstimate?
(Dr Borg) They are surveyed in our case by MORI.
101. Are you concerned that there is a lack
of awareness about the family programme that you have?
(Dr Borg) I am concerned that it should be as well-known
as possible and I am sure we can do more to make it better known
than it is.
102. Are you also concerned that while it is
reported that as many as 50 per cent of households now have access
by computers to the web, only two per cent of your visitors said
they were influenced to come by your web site?
(Dr Borg) Yes, that seems to be curious and we need
to make sure that our web site is a good and exciting one for
people to want to visit it.
103. Is it a priority for the Museum because
it seems to me that an increasing number of people are making
decisions about how to spend their leisure time having surfed
(Dr Borg) In my view it is absolutely the right priority
for the Museum to have not only the best web site that it can
but to capture as much information about the Museum and its collections
in digital form so that we can put that onto the web for distance
learning and such purposes.
104. What I am getting from some of your answers
that you have given this afternoon to me and to colleagues is
a concern that at worst the Museum (and museums) regard themselves
and are regarded as elitist and therefore they do not go out of
their way in order to attract everyone, which is the starting
point which we began with, and it worries me that insufficient
is being done to address that issue. It is not as simple as counting
heads but I am not against counting heads if it has got a financial
implication to it. As long as you are getting £30 million
in grant-in-aid and you are the second highest museum there is
not really any great incentive, is there?
(Dr Borg) I think what you say would perhaps have
been true ten or 15 years ago. I do not think it is true now of
the V&A nor indeed, I have to say, of any of our great national
105. But it is a cushion. I have to confess
that I have not been to the V&A for 10 years but I have paid
to come in twice because as a taxpayer I am paying a pound a year
for the V&A. I am not against protecting and enhancing national
collections but I am against that money being spent if museums
are not going out of their way to attract as many people as possible
to that museum.
(Dr Borg) Again I agree with you and that is why we
are so pleased that we can revert to free admission from later
Mr Campbell: Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
Chairman: Thank you. Mr Ian Davidson?
106. Can I ask in terms of the popularity of
the museum, is it the case that once they have been they never
go back or do you have regular substantial numbers that make a
habit of coming back?
(Dr Borg) We have what we call our core audience and
they come many times. Some people come more than once a week.
They are the enthusiasts for the Museum and quite a number of
them, of course, live relatively close to the Museum and so can
come in on that regular basis. If you have a particular interest
in some area of the museum, and this applies to all museums, if
you are for example a ceramics collector, you will be a very regular
visitor to the V&A because we have the finest ceramics.
107. I am slightly surprised that some people
are there more than once a week. Give me a feel for how many people
that applies to. Are we talking ten or 100 or 1,000?
(Dr Borg) The repeat visitor figure is 50 per cent.
108. Goodness me. In terms of repeat visitors
how many of those are attending as often as once a week?
(Dr Borg) That is a very small number, probably say
a few tens of people who would come that regularly, but people
who would come several times a year would very probably be members
of our Friends organisation and that number is of the order of
109. So 15,000 are coming more than once and
several tens are coming as often as 50 times a year, once a week.
Goodness me. That is interesting. Obviously you have managed to
get some audiences really quite interested but in terms of the
total numbers that means that the number of different people you
are getting is far, far worse than I thought when I saw this at
the beginning because lots of these people are coming back. Presumably
you do not get your hand stamped the first time you visit and
then you do not get it stamped again? Presumably these people
are counted every time they come in? So the number of different
people that come is far, far less than the figure we have had
so far so the real cost per head of different people is probably
about £50 a head.
(Dr Borg) You are correct that what we
count, along with all other museums, is visits not visitors.
110. If 50 per cent of them are returning more
than once then different people could be £75 a head per person.
That does put things in a slightly different context. Presumably
your Museum is fairly warm and is heated? How many of people that
get in free are there just to be out of the cold?
(Dr Borg) I do not think very many but even if they
are that would not in itself worry me because my view of the Victoria
and Albert Museum is that anyone who comes across the threshold
we should be able to interest.
111. I understand that. I have it in my constituency
and particularly when it is a harsh winter I recognise that the
elderly, in particular the poor elderly, do require public buildings
that are heated to preserve life, but it does affect the number
of visitors that you are attracting for the Museum itself. We
have got a substantial number of repeats, a substantial number
in out of the cold, so the cost per head for the remaining number
is really quite substantial. Can I ask you to give me an indication
of how many of the different ethnic minorities are coming to the
Museum. I am not clear, I do not have a feel for how many of the
Sikhs for example did come. You mentioned South East Asian communities
and I am not entirely clear how many those are. Can you tell me?
(Dr Borg) We know about seven per cent of the entire
total of visitors comes from the ethnic minorities and three per
cent of that total is Asian.
112. I am surprised that it is as small as that
because the way you were building up the ethnic minorities there
I had the impression it was 40 per cent or something like that.
It is only seven per cent. That is not really an alibi to hide
behind when we are unhappy about your numbers. You are saying
we are not doing big numbers but we are doing big things for the
ethnic minorities but they are only seven per cent of overall
numbers, numbers which include repeats and people wanting in out
of the cold.
(Dr Borg) I would certainly want to increase that
number. I would suggest however that seven per cent of visitors
from the ethnic minorities is high in terms of national museums.
We have collections that appeal to members of those minorities
which places like traditional picture galleries do not.
113. I think that is fair. It is high in comparison
to many others but it is not a complete explanation of your overall
numbers since clearly they have not replaced the others. Can I
ask you whether or not you think it is fair for us to be concentrating
upon actual numbers? Do you think we are missing the point? When
you were discussing with Mr Williams the point about Fabergé
and bringing large numbers in it seemed as if you felt that that
was not quite beneath you but you were not wanting to be too popular.
Do you think that the excellence for which you strive is to some
extent necessarily only going to appeal to a relatively small
number and that we ought simply to be concentrating on bums on
(Dr Borg) I think it is a mixture of both things.
I think the Museumagain this applies to any museumshould
be attempting to attract large numbers of people for certain sorts
of activities but should not neglect those activities and those
sort of exhibitions and displays which although we know are not
going to attract the same numbers are worthwhile doing because
they are bringing in members of society who would not otherwise
come to the museum.
114. So excellence and bulk are not mutually
(Dr Borg) No.
115. So a concentration on excellence is not
an excuse for falling numbers? I notice in the biography that
you were appointed in 1995 and looking at the graph on Page 17,
Figure 7, the numbers have pretty consistently fallen since you
arrived. I am not quite clear why that is. Had it been a question
of a change in direction and you were concentrating on excellence
and that bled away some of the numbers, I could have understood
that. You have said that that is not position. What is the explanation
for this fall? Could I add to that on the point that you made
about the Mrs Steinberg situation where you indicated that ten
years ago it had been a bit dull and boring and all the rest of
it, the numbers ten years ago were much higher than they are now,
so if it was dull and boring then why were they getting bigger
numbers than you are?
(Dr Borg) We have set in train a series of measures,
notably the British Galleries opening later this year and the
new Spiral Building, which will ensure that visitor figures increase.
116. I am not asking what you are going to do
about it now. I am asking why has it been so bad from the time
you arrived until now.
(Dr Borg) As I have said, the numbers appear to have
declined because of the mix of exhibitions.
117. What do you mean they appear to have declined?
They either have or have not declined?
(Dr Borg) They have declined.
118. So they have declined. I thought you were
disputing that they have declined. They have actually declined.
(Dr Borg) They have declined but not consistently.
They have gone up and down. They have now gone up 13 per cent
turning into, we believe, a continual upward trend.
119. Really? Are you on performance related
(Dr Borg) Yes.
6 Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 16 (PAC