The Singapore Perspective

Free museum entry widens access to arts, culture

When free year-round entry to national museums and heritage institutions was introduced in 2013 for Singaporeans and permanent residents, the aim was for museums to become anchors of community life and foster a greater sense of cultural identity and belonging.

The initiative came at a time when society was grappling with an influx of foreigners and some residents felt a sense of disorientation.

However, the move has also contributed to efforts by the museums to reach out to the public and encourage appreciation of culture and the arts.

Removing the ticket price as a barrier to access has seen an increase in local attendance at art and heritage institutions.

Visitor numbers at the National Heritage Board's seven museums and heritage institutions, including the National Museum of Singapore and Asian Civilisations Museum, rose 19.2 per cent in the six months after the new admissions policy kicked in, compared with the same period the year before, in 2012.

Separately, at the Singapore Art Museum, attendance by Singaporeans and PRs jumped 26 per cent in the first year after free admission was introduced. The number of Singapore visitors there grew from just over 400,000 in 2012 to almost 600,000 last year.

The increase in museum-goers here suggests a bigger captive audience for the institutions' efforts to nurture understanding and appreciation of culture and the arts.

Even so, Mrs Rosa Daniel, chief executive of the heritage board, points out, "to sustain true interest and passion, and to make museum- going a part of the Singapore way of life, we need to keep the quality of our offerings high, and the museum experience meaningful".

The museums, now that admission prices are no longer an issue, have their work cut out for them.

Huang Lijie

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2016, with the headline 'Free museum entry widens access to arts, culture'. Print Edition | Subscribe