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Social inclusion and access to heritage : a study of museums and galleries in the UK

By Peter K Falconer and David Silbergh


This article arises from ongoing research into public policy and museums and galleries in the UK. It considers the specific question of how museum and galleries, in approaching the challenge of widening access to their collections and exhibits, have responded to the public policy imperatives contained within contemporary social inclusion agendas. In 1997, the British Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair embarked on a major review of public policy, an important element of which focused on the issue of public access to cultural services. As an element of the Government’s desire to address challenges of inequality and social exclusion, access became a cornerstone of cultural and heritage policy in the UK and significant attention was given to the role of admission charges as a commonly perceived barrier to access. While museums and galleries have moved toward a policy of free admission to their general collections and publicly embraced social inclusion as an important area of responsibility, views expressed privately suggest that the pressures surrounding the pursuit of social inclusion objectives distort the principal mission of museums which, it is argued, is not to serve social and political ends. The article examines these arguments and offers an evaluation of the present British Government’s social inclusion agenda within the context of a particular element of cultural policy, namely the attempt to widen access to museums and gallerie

Topics: AM
Year: 2004
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