Micropayments & Museum Admissions

The Coalition Government wants to foster “an American-style culture of philanthropy to the arts and culture here in the UK”, according to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Plans are to be announced later today, the Guardian has a decent round-up of links/suggestions here on how they might tackle this.

In simple terms, the Government wants to spend less on the arts & culture (a blanket use of everyone’s money) and encourage more corporations and individuals to spend their own money directly. If that makes people think about, and value, the arts, then it is a good thing.

Admission charges are a bugbear. It seems the options are polar: either free or expensive. I’m a big fan of the Manchester Art Gallery, but why does it need to be free? There is a pricing chasm between free and the cost of a United matchday ticket, or the Royal Exchange, or Bridgewater Hall.

Micropayment technology is common enough (London’s Oyster cards), would it not be possible to make revenue off, say, a 50p admission charge (or 10p for Manchester Council Tax payers)? The system would link to the Lowry, War Museum North, Whitworth, MOSI, People’s History, etc., and beyond.

It encourages data collection (for mapping & analysis), seasonal incentives, loyalty schemes, and puts a value on a museum visit. To an outsider, modern museums seem to put the most effort into their coffee shops, restaurants and merchandising – possibly because they generate revenue. The tail wagging the dog, surely?

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