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Have Norwich’s smaller museums suffered from Roman popularity?

PUBLISHED: 08:40 16 June 2014 | UPDATED: 08:40 16 June 2014

Trainees get to grips with working for the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, pictured at the Castle Museum. From left, Molly Carter, Sarah Cassell, and Mandie Thrippleton, in the Natural History area. Picture: Denise Bradley

Trainees get to grips with working for the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, pictured at the Castle Museum. From left, Molly Carter, Sarah Cassell, and Mandie Thrippleton, in the Natural History area. Picture: Denise Bradley


The huge success of the Roman Empire exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum could be the reason for a fall in visitor numbers at two other city museums, bosses have suggested.

The blockbuster Power and People exhibition, which ran at the castle from February to April was hailed as a triumph, with more than 65,000 visits.

But visitor numbers at Strangers’ Hall and the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell have fallen by 20pc on the same period last year, according to a report prepared for the Norwich Area Museums Committee tomorrow.

In a briefing paper which will come before committee members, Rachel Kirk, Norwich museums manager, said visits to Norwich Castle were 20pc higher for April and May 2014, compared with the same period last year.

But, with visitors to the other two museums down, she said: “It’s possible that the visitor offer at Norwich Castle which has received so much media coverage has had an impact on the number of visits to the small Norwich museums.

“We are interrogating the ticket information to identify if there have been reductions in particular ticket categories or whether this decrease is across all audiences, and reviewing marketing activities.

“Efforts to improve awareness of the Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell in order to build visitor numbers continue. The Museum remains Trip Advisor’s second best visitor attraction in Norwich.”

Strangers’ Hall and the Museum of Norwich will take part in the Norwich Lanes’ Fayre on Sunday, July 6, while the garden at Strangers’ Hall will feature in the National Gardens Scheme Norfolk Gardens 2014 programme.


  • what is needed is something similar to what they have in Paris a ticket to visit all the museums, (there are actually 8). The musuems seem to be run or opened for the benefit of staff. The castle doesn't open to 1'o'clock on a Sunday, The bridewell doesn't open Sundays & Mondays. Strangers Hall is only open 3 days later in the week. Why not open Bridewell & Strangers at same time and have a joint ticketing arrangement? There is a large car park near both, St.Andrews.

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    Monday, June 16, 2014

  • I think museums have a problem in general. There are people who have a specific historical interest who will pay to visit or go as part of an organised trip with transport included. But for walk in visits when you have a few hours spare they can be expensive. I was with my wife in London and she wanted to visit a museum that had a textile exhibition so I opted for the British museum. After queuing for an audio guide and taking 2 of them back that failed I finally asked for my money back after a wasted hour. As they were advertising a Viking exhibit I thought "that would be interesting" but tickets were £16.50, so I walked away as did many other people when they realised the price. But I did see many people go in free because they are members which is £60 py, great if you live in the London area. The bottom line is people like myself expect museums are expensive so don't go any more or even bother to read the averts.

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    Monday, June 16, 2014

  • I think some of this is a matter of perception and reflects lack of effective marketing for the smaller museums. Stranger's Hall is so 'low-profile' nowadays that probably many people THINK it is inaccessible. It would be disastrous if the success of big exhibitions like the recent Romans one led to them being regarded as a problem or as a negative influence! The challenge must be to take advantage of the 'blockbusters' to promote Norfolk museums more generally to a wider audience.

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    gilded beams

    Monday, June 16, 2014

  • There are a lot of factors at work here. Firstly, price. Although the entry fee for the Castle is higher (with lower prices for certain specific exhibitions), there is of course a lot more to see. Second , opening times. The Castle is open much longer and more often than the Bridewell, which I believe doesn't open on Sundays or Mondays; in my experience, Sunday being a traditional museum-visiting day. Strangers' Hall is more shut than open. Thirdly, whilst the Castle and the Bridewell exhibits have both been revised and, in my view, mainly improved, Strangers' Hall has been shamefully neglected for years. It doesn't help that the exterior frontage always looks grubby and uncared-for, possibly because of being beside a well-used road. There could also be better signposting to the two smaller museums. The other thing which is possibly influential is the location, cost and availability of car parking. I hope that none of this "fall in numbers" concern is another stalking horse for museum closures and yet more cultural vandalism.

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    T Doff

    Monday, June 16, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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