New Burns museum sets target of 80,000 visitors to break even
HUNDREDS of contractors were involved in the museum’s construction. The main objective with the modern design of the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum was to create an ecologically responsible and sustainable building that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to adapt to fit the needs of future generations and the museum. As such, the museum has a unique sedum roof that naturally insulates the building while heating and cooling is provided by 12 earth energy ground-source heat pumps.
ALLOWAY – The newly-opened £21 million Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Scotland is aiming to draw at least 80,000 paying visitors a year to cover its costs. The flagship National Trust for Scotland attraction in Ayrshire is off the “main drag” for tourists but experts predicted it will easily break the “conservative” figure.
The museum has set a target of 80,000 visitors paying ticket prices of £8, said director Nat Edwards. He hopes to see as much as twice that many people visiting the site, with its two shops, a cafe and restaurant.
“As long as we get a significant number of paying entries that will secure the future,” said Edwards. “With admissions, retail, catering and functions, we hope to generate £1.5 million a year in terms of revenue to cover everything.”
Ticket sales of 80,000 would represent healthy sales for a major summer exhibition at the National Galleries of Scotland, but the museum also hopes to attract the coach parties and tourists who travel to nearby destinations such as Culzean Castle, which pulls in about 175,000 people annually.
“Obviously this is a fantastic place for coaches to come, but I want to see people who want a really good Scottish cultural experience to come here,” Edwards said. “We are offering something that isn't just about tartan and shortbread, for tourists who want to get something of decent quality.”
The museum is home to 5,000 artefacts ranging from major manuscripts to a piece of the wedding dress of the bard's wife Jean Armour, and aims to take Burns to a new generation with 17 interactive displays.
While funders include the Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Funds, there will be pressure on the museum not just to cover costs but also to generate income for the NTS.
It explores Burns' life and writing, from his humble childhood in Alloway to his emergence as an international celebrity that saw Haydn and Beethoven arrange his poems and tunes.
The museum replaces the former Burns National Heritage Park to bring together all of the Alloway sites with a connection to Burns, including the new 1,600 square metre museum, the Burns Monument, Alloway Auld Kirk and the Burns Cottage, an education pavilion and Auld Brig O'Doon. Tickets are valid for three days and entrance free to NTS members.
Upon entering the exhibition area, visitors see a timeline of important dates in Burns’ life and events taking place in Scotland that would have affected his work; but that’s where the traditional museum experience ends.
A theatrically lit corridor serves as the entrance to the main exhibition area and sets the scene as voices of gossips talking about Burns quietly echo through the hall while words such as ‘exciseman’, ‘lover’, ‘poet’, ‘ploughman’, ‘icon’ inscribed on the floor open visitor’s minds to the idea of Burns as a man through the different stages of his life.
London based company Spiral Productions has created 17 interactive features for the new museum and has worked closely with interpretation manager Mary Stones to create unique interactive elements that complement the artifacts on show and encourage visitors to actively participate in learning about Burns.
THE £21 MILLION museum has a collection of over 5,000 historical artefacts, original manuscripts and memorabilia presented in a fresh and novel way through the four distinct areas of Identity, Inspiration, Fame and Creative Works – addressing every aspect of Burns’ life through thought-provoking interpretation.