Northumberland ranked fourth for number of museums

Woodhorn Museum, Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman
Woodhorn Museum, Ashington. Picture by Jane Coltman

A new interactive map has plotted the location of more than 1,300 accredited museums in England – and Northumberland is the local-authority area with the fourth highest number of museums.

Innovation foundation Nesta created the map using accredited museums data from Arts Council England to understand levels of accessibility across the country.

Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick.

Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick.

They found that some areas benefit from much higher levels of access than others for reasons that include historical significance and population density.

In terms of the total number of museums, Northumberland is ranked fourth with 21, behind Camden (22), Westminster (23) and Cornwall (31).

More than half of the population (55 per cent) live within walking distance of at least one, while in areas considered to be more deprived, the proportion of people within walking distance of a museum rises to 70 per cent.

This is explained by a high proportion of England’s deprived areas being found near urban centres, generally densely populated, which have more of these institutions.

While the interactive map plots museum location, there is no consistent data available to reflect visitor numbers. This information would help policy-makers identify public awareness of local museums and, in turn, museums to reach new audiences.

The interactive museums map is available to view at http://data-viz.nesta.org.uk/museumsmap

John Davies, research fellow at Nesta, said: “Museums hold our collective memory and our map shows that a large proportion of England’s population live within close reach of at least one. With those easily able to access a museum, but who do not attend, the question for the sector is how to break down barriers to access and engage untapped audiences.”

The launch of the tool coincides with the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s Museums Review which is looking at what the Government can do to help museums across England thrive and become even more inclusive.

Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital and Culture Policy, said: “Through their unique collections, expertise and special place in local communities, museums make a vital contribution to the nation’s cultural life. This online map highlights the huge variety we have in this country.

“One aim of our ongoing Museums Review is to ensure that we encourage a more diverse audience to visit museums. I hope the map will encourage more people to go and explore the fantastic museums and galleries on their doorsteps.”