Museums preserve our cultural heritage. They tell us stories about our past. If our heritage belongs to all of us, shouldn’t museums be freely accessible to all? In most European countries, visitors have to pay an entrance fee. Could this put off people on lower incomes?

Is free always better? In Europe, the UK is an exception when it comes to entrance fees, as many renowned museums across the country, such as the National Gallery, the British Museum or the Tate Gallery, can be visited completely free of charge. But does free admission automatically mean that more people from different backgrounds visit museums? And how should cultural institutions finance themselves, if not through ticket sales?

What do our readers think? The business model of many cultural venues in Europe is based around footfall and maximising ticket sales. We had a comment from Jurre who points out that this business model isn’t sustainable under social distancing rules, and he wants to see greater financial support from governments and the EU. Can big cultural venues like museums, galleries, and concert venues return to their old pre-pandemic business models, or will they need more government support in future?

We forwarded Jurre’s question to the art historian Julia Pagel and Green MEP Niklas Nienaß for them to respond. Pagel is the Secretary General of NEMO, the Network of European Museum Organisations, which is the European umbrella organisation for national museum organisations and speaks for over 30,000 museums across Europe, and Nienaß is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education. Do they also think that museums need more state support?

Next up, Apostolos thinks Europe’s cultural sector has been under pressure since way before Covid (for example from budget cuts, the rise of the Internet, and so on). The pandemic has just accelerated things. Is he right?

Our reader Catherine told us she thinks Europe’s museums should have free admission for everyone. Should museums be free to the public, particularly if we move towards a post-pandemic world with fewer in-person visitors overall?

Finally, the past few years have seen a growing discussion over the cultural sector and how diverse perspectives are included and represented. Vijaykumar sent us a comment arguing that Europe needs to confront its colonial past honestly and frankly. Who should decide what is displayed in museums and galleries, what stories are told, and which perspectives should be excluded or included (particularly if museums are free or receiving greater public financial support)?

Should all museums be free to the public? How can museums recover from the pandemic? Should museums receive more public funding? Can free admission help attract a more diverse audience? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

Image Credits: Alicia Steels on Unsplash
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28 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Of course. All education must be free. Otherwise people turn into americans and tha’s not a compliment!

  2. avatar

    Of course. All education must be free. Otherwise people turn into americans and that’s not a compliment!

  3. avatar

    All publicly owned museums should be.

  4. avatar

    Nothing is free, you know it in the UE, don’t you?

  5. avatar

    Yes they should, at least for kids, teens, students, listeners, aso, but for many it’s too late

  6. avatar

    I don’t think, no. Just need to make them more “attractive” for the younger.More publicity too.

  7. avatar

    All those nice paintings are now contaminated by Covid-19

    • avatar


    • avatar

      suppose they are not, Covid-19 does not contaminate the air it contaminates living things and surfaces. unless the historical paintings are allowed to be touched and usually there is a restricted sign saying to not touch the paintings and a barrier sometimes if it’s low enough. the painting should have no effect to Covid-19 and if it does well that’s just weird.

  8. avatar

    Suppose someone would have asked this question in 2019: Would we better free our museums?” Straight to the nut house! Bunch of idiots.

  9. avatar

    Everything costs moneys to maintain or protect or expand Nothing is truly free

  10. avatar

    Should never be free but a symbolic amount to be paid

  11. avatar

    There is nothing like a free lunch. “Free” does not exist : it must be paid by someone…

  12. avatar

    Great idea, but each EU country should decide on their own.Your piece sounds like a base for EU slush fund to pour endless money in fake “museums”.And btw,”Should this be extended throughout Europe?” – this can be “extended” only if UK invades other European countries.

  13. avatar

    No.. I prefer that users pay instead of the tax payer… Nothing is free..

  14. avatar

    At present vacationing in Spain. Some museums are free for EU citizens, others pay. Way to go!

  15. avatar

    Nothing is free. If the visitors don’t pay for ticket then the taxpayers will.
    Museums have high costs (personnel, security, maintenance of the artifacts etc)

  16. avatar

    if the entrance is who pay the light, the workers for clean, the devices for anti-rubber , ettc,,?

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