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UK Museums, Art Galleries, and Festivals
The Success of Free UK Museums and Art Funding
The UK has a strong tradition of funding the arts. Though commercial art galleries in London and other cities can turn a profit, most cultural organizations depend on public funding. Each of the four UK countries has its own council responsible for funding:
The British Council is another important funding source for the arts. The council is responsible for educational opportunities and international cultural relations, and is active in 110 countries and territories. The objective of the British Council is not so much to promote UK arts, but more to use it as a way to connect, supporting collaborations between international and British artists as well as funding exhibitions and events.
One outcome of strong arts funding is that entry to most national UK museums is free. Thanks to a change by the Labour government in 2001, you can visit the permanent collections of national museums in England, Scotland and Wales (with the exception of temporary exhibitions) free of charge. There are three national museums in Northern Ireland, and one of them, Belfast’s Ulster Museum, has free entry. In the entire country, there are over 50 national museums with free entry.
This policy has had an enormous influence on the popularity of UK museums and has attracted more diverse audiences to museums in the UK. By 2011, visitor numbers had increased by 150% since free entry was first granted in 2001.
The British Museum
London was once the capital of a vast empire, and has many imposing and impressive museums to prove it. The British Museum, arguably the most famous of all UK museums and one of the most visited museums in the world, received 6.7 million visitors between 2014 and 2015 alone. Founded in 1753 and opened to the public in 1759, the British Museum claims to have been the first national public museum. Its collection illustrates the history of human culture, with gems like the Rosetta Stone, which provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The museum, which houses about eight million artefacts, also loans many of its treasures to other institutions in the UK, meaning you don’t have to be in London to witness everything the museum has to offer. Between 2015 and 2016, over 7.7 million people saw exhibitions and objects owned by the British Museum elsewhere in the UK, with over 3000 objects being loaned throughout the year. Museums and Art Galleries in London
The UK is home to countless museums and art galleries. However, it cannot be denied that London is the cultural hub of Britain. This list of UK museums in the capital gives you a taste of just how much art and culture you can find in London.
- The Victoria and Albert Museum (also known as the V&A)
- The Tate Modern and Tate Britain
- White Cube Gallery
- Serpentine Gallery
- National Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- Saatchi Gallery
- Natural History Museum
- Whitechapel Art Gallery
- National Maritime Museum
- Science Museum
- Hayward Gallery, at the Southbank Centre
- The British Library
Museums and Art Galleries in the UK
Once again, this list is by no means exhaustive, but it highlights some of the most visited and noteworthy UK museums you should have on your radar. Some — like the Railway Museum in York — also are a popular destination for field trips organized by schools all over the UK.
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
- National Gallery, Edinburgh
- Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
- Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
- National Railway Museum, York
- Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
- Riverside Museum: Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, Glasgow
- St. Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff
- Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool
- Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Birmingham
- Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
- Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead near Newcastle upon Tyne
- The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Art and Culture FestivalsMuseums aren’t the only attraction for “culture vultures”; from literature to film, street performance to music, the UK has a full schedule when it comes to festivals. Music festivals are particularly popular in the UK. Below is a list of some important cultural festivals.
- Edinburgh Fringe Festival
- London Film Festival
- Bestival, Isle of Wight
- Manchester International Festival
- Brighton Festival
- Parklife Weekender, Manchester
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