UK museum visitor numbers ‘not comparable’

Culture department says changes in data methodology stymie comparisons between latest figures and previous years<br>

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says it may have “overestimated” the number of British visitors to the 16 national museums in 2008/09 after UK media reported a slump in domestic visitor figures for 2013/14.

Statistics released by the department in February showed that a record 49 million visits—by overseas tourists as well as UK citizens—had been made to the 16 government-sponsored museums and galleries in 2013/14. But Will Gompertz, the BBC’s arts editor, analysed the figures for Tate and the National Gallery and found that they revealed a fall in UK visitor numbers to both institutions.

“The National Gallery has seen its domestic visits fall by more than half a million, from 2.9 million in 08/09 to 2.3 million last year,” Gompertz said.

A culture department spokesman says: “There was a change in methodology with how some of the statistics were collated, so figures from 2011/12 onwards are not comparable with previous figures.”