Swedish museums see big drop in visits

Visits to Sweden's national museums dropped nearly 20 percent last year after they scrapped a policy of free admissions and began charging for entry, the culture ministry said Thursday.

Sweden’s 19 national museums, 16 of them located in Stockholm, registered some 6.5 million visits in 2007, down from around 8.0 million a year earlier, ministry spokesman Marcus Hartmann told AFP.

The decline came after Sweden’s centre-right coalition government pushed through new admission fees to the museums starting on January 1st, 2007, just two years after the previous leftist government had removed the fees in a bid to draw more visitors.

“There is of course a link between the halt in free admissions (to the museums) and the decline in the number of visitors” Hartmann said.

“But museums are not just there to attract visitors,” he said, insisting the entrance fees were needed to help pay for the work protecting Sweden’s cultural heritage.

Margareta Israelsson, who heads the opposition Social Democrats’ cultural affairs commission in parliament, however insisted that “by putting an end to free admissions to museums, the government has limited the dissemination of our cultural heritage.”