Archive | December, 2011

An Open Letter

1 Dec

Dear People of the U.K.,

I congratulate you.  For ten years your major public museums have been free to enter, and by most standards it’s been a roaring success.  Attendance figures have risen dramatically, and the free museums have become a beloved part of British culture.  So please, do us all a huge favor.  Don’t screw it up.

You know those donation containers as you walk in kindly asking for £3 or so?  Please put some money in them.  Put more if you can.  Put less if you must.  Just donate something.  I know you live in a very expensive country and everyone is hurting, but please do what you can.  You’re paying for the privilege of being able to just stop in and see the Rosetta Stone whenever you want.

As an American, I’m extremely jealous of the system you have.  It’s my sincere hope that one day more museums in the U.S. will implement such a policy, but for right now the only ones who do are the museums of the Smithsonian, which are unfortunately limited to Washington, D.C..  And if you think London is an expensive city to live in, try being a tourist.  Hotels aren’t cheap, and most of our currencies can’t hold a candle to yours.  All that just for the sake of being able to enjoy your wonderful cultural institutions.  Your food may have improved in the last few years, but it’s not that good.

It’s not that the free admission policies of the museums are currently under direct attack, but with a government budget that’s coming up short in several key places the idea is starting to creep into some people’s’ minds.  Don’t let it happen, I’m begging you.  Do what you can to prevent it.  I’m not suggesting you start giving £20 whenever you go in, but do give something when you can.  Let’s make it even simpler.  If you haven’t been in a while, start by going to one of the museums.

I’m always amazed when I’m in London.  Most museums are a bit, for lack of a better word, serious.  You show up to a museum in London on an average Saturday and there are families taking part in the children’s activities, couples on dates, groups of friends just out to be social.  Some might find it distracting, I think it’s a miracle.  It makes the museums living, breathing spaces where you can interact with the objects on display as much as you can the other visitors.

So please, support your museums in any way possible.  I know you like being superior to us Yanks, and in this case you really are.  I admire you for it, and hope that you will do what you can to continue this great tradition.  I know some of the ways museums have developed to raise money, like asking £1 for a map, seem annoying, but they serve a good purpose.   They serve a higher purpose, if you will.  Your museums are some of the best and showcase the accomplishments of humanity like no other.  They should be open to everyone.  The rest of the world thanks you.

Yours Sincerely,
Kathleen Burnett