The transfer of 400,000 images from Bradford to London earlier this year, branded an “appalling act of cultural vandalism” by councillors, put the much-loved museum firmly into the media spotlight.
And now, as the new statistics bring its failing popularity into stark relief, local leaders reveal they have sought reassurances from Government over its continued future in Bradford.
“The National Media Museum is a northern cultural treasure,” said Judith Cummins MP, who wrote to the new Secretary of State for Culture, Karen Bradley MP in August.
“Encouragingly, she offered her written assurances that the future of the National Media Museum remained bright under her watch. “I and others believe it will continue to deliver outstanding cultural experiences for the people of Yorkshire, provided Central Government continues to invest in its future.”
The figures, revealed through analysis by The Yorkshire Post of Government statistics, compare visitor number in the year to July 2016, (441,000) and for the same period for 2008 (737,681).
There have been fluctuations over time, with a spike in numbers to March recovering it from a slump the previous year.
“Our most recent annual figures showed an 11 per cent increase in visitors year-on-year, and a Visit England report issued last month placed the National Media Museum as the sixth most visited attraction in Yorkshire and the Humber,” a spokesman for the NMM said, adding that plans were in place to effect real change. “In February we had one of our most successful half-terms in recent years when we partnered with Horrible Science. In 2017 we will be unveiling a new brand for the Museum along with our £1.8m Wonderlab gallery, which we’re very confident will be a major draw for us and increase visits.”
Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford City Council, said the museum makes a significant economic contribution to the city. “In 2016 visitor numbers increased for the first time in years but from speaking to the Museum they still have plans to do more,” she said. “The new gallery opening early next year will boost visitor numbers further. People need to see constant investment and new activities and exhibitions to keep coming back for more.”
The national museum figures showed a slow decline in popularity across Yorkshire.
Visitor numbers at the Royal Armouries in Leeds have fallen 10 per cent (249,938 to 224,231) in this time, while the National Railway Museum in York has seen a five per cent drop in footfall, (794,944 to 753000).
A spokesman for the Royal Armouries said changes in funding support since 2008 do have an impact, but recent exhibitions are drawing its figures back up. And the National Railway Museum put fluctuations down to its variety of programming, adding that it is confident its Scotsman season will have a positive impact. Its popularity was on the rise in recent years, it added.
Only Wakefield’s National Coal Mining Museum remained relatively stable, falling just 1 per cent (127,793 to 125,839), a figure mine manager and deputy director Andy Smith has put down to increased publicity.
“There’s been a lot of mine closures ,” he said, citing Kellingley Colliery. “We get more people when it’s drawn into the public eye.”