Sad to read

It is sad to read (Observer, February 21) about the financial problems facing the Novium.

Unfortunately, these are not unexpected and it is not just a question of people not wanting to pay the admission prices, as there are significant underlying problems here.

Potential visitors to attractions these days often consult user review websites to plan where to visit.

On the largest of these websites, there are currently 27 visitor reviews of the Novium and two-thirds (18) of these thought it was poor or even terrible and only two thought it was excellent.

Many mention the admission price as being high, and giving poor value, but the reasons cited are much wider.

These include simply too little to be seen, poor displays, lighting too dim, poor labelling, strange themes being used (eg ‘courage’) and being too bare and too dull.

And then some unhappy overall conclusions, such as that it is disappointing, a poor visitor experience, worth only one visit, overpriced for content, a waste of time and money, and even ‘candidate for the worst museum in Britain’.

These are harsh judgements indeed, and readily accessible to potential visitors.

It is good to hear the museum are open to suggestions, so what can be done?

These should include: take down the unsightly panels covering the main windows, so that the place looks more inviting, and give potential visitors a glimpse of the Roman ruins; more local material out on display, adding interest and filling empty spaces; change the themes to more distinctive, locally relevant ones (old-fashioned perhaps, but it’s what people enjoy); improve display labelling; increase lighting levels; make entry free for the under-tens; and yes, introduce a significant price discount scheme for locals.

Of course lower prices mean less income per visit, but hopefully many more locals would at least then give it a try, and then later more casual visitors.

And visitors buy souvenirs too.

Unfortunately, right now there may be little point in just reducing entry prices, given the apparent reactions of actual visitors as above.

Yes, certainly run special events and suchlike, all museums do, but rather more fundamental internal changes must be an integral part of the strategy.

Otherwise, the white-walled ‘state-of-the-art’ Novium begins to look uncomfortably like an old-fashioned white elephant.

Mike Dunn

Admirals Walk