What makes a great museum?

Museums, competing with other places of cultural interest, are working hard to increase “footfall” – the numbers attending. Some employ outreach workers to attract visitors. “One thing museums need to do to survive and thrive is challenge the preconceptions of their audience,” William Cook wrote in The Spectator. This is particularly the case when so much historical and artistic information is available online, he argued. Institutional stuffiness and aloofness are two of the threats. Those on the Art Fund’s short list have devised innovative ways of engaging with the public. During its £4m redevelopment, Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History allowed some of its specimens to “escape” to the city. Bookworms were seen in a bookshop and a penguin turned up a fishmongers. The museum set up a Goes To Town trail for those interested in finding out more about animals.

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