Entry to museum should be free

I can quite understand why Mrs Johnson was surprised to find out she will have to pay to enter the new museum (letters, July 26) for this has been the most closely-guarded secret surrounding the whole project.

In the press releases and on the posters displayed in the old tourist information centre, no mention was ever made of the fact we were going to be charged for entry.

Similarly, in the self-congratulatory opening night speeches, including the one by the deputy leader, Cllr Myles Cullen, not one mention was made about admission charges.

The fact such secrecy prevailed presumably suggests our great and glorious council is ashamed about its policy and fearful of a public backlash.

The new museum’s contents are interesting, despite some serious gaps, but they do not include any landmark collections to match, say, the 18th-century drinking glasses at Worthing, the art nouveau at Brighton or, further afield, the 17th-century west country silver at Taunton.

All those collections are well worth return visits and, as it happens, all three (municipal) museums are free.

I personally doubt whether, at £7, many visitors will regard a return visit to Chichester’s municipal museum as a ‘must’.

Cllr Cullen and his cohorts would do well to learn lessons from history.

When compulsory London museum charges were imposed in the late 1980s, footfall to the V&A fell by two thirds and their overall income dropped, as those who did go in were spending less in the shop and cafes.

The fact was that while previously many people popped in during their lunch break to see favourite objects, they were unwilling to pay £8 for just half an hour and so stayed away.

When the V&A became free again, the collecting boxes were filled by grateful visitors and sales went up.

In Chichester, when the ‘old’ museum in Little London opened in 1964, the museum sub-committee of the former city council decided not to impose charges for the first year to see what would happen. It was found the collecting box brought in sufficient money for the museum to remain free until its demise.

A really disingenuous aspect of these charges is that, over the years, local people donated the bulk of the items in the old museum and also freely loaned items for exhibitions where the museum collections fell short.

Now generous former benefactors are expected to pay to see the self-same objects they gave in good faith.

Mrs Johnson, you and your friends are right to ‘stitch and bitch’ across the road at the library, and I urge you to continue to do so, for we have already paid for museum services through our council taxes; admission to the new museum should be free as it was for the old one.

Alan HJ Green

Stockbridge Road,