More visitors flock to Britain’s oldest museum - Thursday, 25 February 2010

More than 271,000 visitors flocked to the Royal Armouries (RA) Museum in Leeds in 2009 – an annual increase of nearly 3.5 percent.

Britain’s oldest museum’s free entry policy, vibrant events programme and 8,5000 exhibits from the national collection of arms and armour succeeded in pulling in the crowds at the purpose-built museum on Clarence Dock.

The increase was even greater at the Tower of London, where the RA houses part of the national collection in the White Tower. The Tower’s overall visitor figures jumped to over 2.3 million – an annual increase of 11 per cent.

Part of the Tower’s success can be attributed to the highly-acclaimed exhibition, Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill. This marked the 500th anniversary of the Tudor monarch’s accession to the throne.

The RA announced its increased visitor figures yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a countrywide announcement by The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA). The national trend showed a general increase in visitors to tourist attractions – particularly those offering free entry, as people sought good-value days out in the recession.

Royal Armouries Museum Director Peter Armstrong said, “The Royal Armouries Museum fascinates visitors of all ages and interests whatever the weather. With the museum offering free entry and greater numbers holidaying at home we have seen a fantastic increase in visitor numbers. The weak pound has also attracted foreign visitors.”

Looking ahead, the national trend is optimistic – a view shared by the Royal Armouries, which is investing in all its three UK sites.

The White Tower is due to receive a spectacular revamp, to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and the RA is carrying out major improvements to its galleries in Leeds.

Work has also started at Fort Nelson in Hampshire, to transform the Victorian Fort into a museum fit for the 21st Century. The £3.5m project, partly funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, will include a new admissions complex, Orienteur Gallery housing some of the big guns and cannon, and classroom of the future.

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