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Free Museums Show Rise In Visits
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Free Museums Show Rise In Visits

It is interesting that "Free Museums Show Rise In Visits". The blatantly obvious reason is that it's free. It's not really. Someone always pays - usually you and I. However, we do see two clear things in amid this phenomenon.

1. There is a public interest in museums.

2. Visits to museums are linked to cost of entry.

Now it is hardly rocket science as they say; yet what is interesting is the question that it raises: What is it about the relationship between money and culture that leads to the equation; Engagement level = Spending cost?

It certainly isn't just about expendable cash. Someone who sees that the entry fee for a museum is £5 might decide it's too expensive and head into a franchise of a global coffee shop chain and spend £12 on coffee, sandwich and a cake; often leaving them barely eaten when they leave.

Such a person is not deciding upon whether or not they can afford to enter the museum. It is more likely they are deciding from a cost versus return basis.

If true, what we see is that sometimes we simply perceive spending £12 in a coffee shop to be more beneficial than £5 in a museum - leaving £7 for refreshment. But why? What is it about coffee, cake and sandwiches that out performs history, dinosaurs, steam engines, heritage and education?

At a guess I'd say physical-immediacy. We simply want benefit now. It takes time, effort, concentration, interest, reading skills, patience etc to get benefit from a museum - and we don't always get that caffeine and sugar comfort we get from coffee and cake et al.

But can it really be this simple? Is it possible that an immediate satiation of appetite beats the enrichment to be found in taking time, effort, concentration, interest, reading skills, patience etc, to learn about who we are and where we come from? You bet!

Many of us might embark on that educational and development journey that takes place when we engage in cultural studies, however the sheer and immediate reward of satiating the appetite is not to be underestimated We are physical beings in a physical world and we are deeply affected by physical appetite.

Having said that, we seem to see that when the decision to reduce or remove the financial cost of culture occurs, there is a corresponding surge in attendance, suggesting that when financial outlay is not as important; learning about who we are and where we come from is still as important as ever.

It almost seems as if money interferes in human growth. The moment it becomes a factor we see preference shift from understanding our situation to appetite satiation. This in turn suggests money favours physical; material goods.

It's hardly a new insight; yet if money favours material then it might disfavour the none material - especially the interest in who we are and where we come from. It almost seems as if money is a bias in cultural evolution. If given complete reign it might even become who we are and where we come from.

That seems uncomfortable; we are essentially our money and our money is us. Better I think to descend from apes and reptiles than money. Besides the steam engine wouldn't run well on paper and bonds; but perhaps the museums of the future will prove me wrong.

What do I know sitting here typing, sipping my coffee whilst museums are free?

Street Talk

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