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Realising the True Impact of Museums and Galleries in Scottish Tourism

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Examine in depth how Scotland’s museums and galleries contribute to tourism and the nation’s cultural infrastructure. This research aimed to uncover just how much of a pull these visitor attractions exert on tourists and visitors. We also wanted to understand the extent to which they fulfil a wider role in Scotland’s cultural fabric – in 2005 and beyond.

Museums and galleries are clearly identified by the report as being central to Scotland’s cultural sector. Community ownership of cultural resources and active involvement in cultural activities aids community learning and development. Meanwhile, images of museums and galleries play a vital role in helping tourists and visitors to see Scotland as a ‘must visit’ destination.

Defining museums and galleries as visitor attractions places greater emphasis on both business context and quality of visitor experience. For the first time, this vital but disparate set of cultural resources is seen as a key cultural asset that lies at the heart of visitor experiences in urban, rural and coastal regions.

The report also helps to explain why it’s difficult to put a financial value on the impact of Scotland’s museums on tourism and the cultural economy. Our museum collections are immensely diverse and the full extent of museum activities across the country isn’t known. So the extent of their direct and indirect benefits tends to either be ignored or taken for granted.

In conducting this research, the Moffat Centre examined the responses it had received from museums and galleries to its annual survey of visitor attractions in 2003. The Moffat Centre also drew on other sources of information to further our understanding of museums in the context of tourism.


  • 437 of the 986 visitor attractions in Scotland in 2003 had museum collections – so museums accounted for 44% of visitor attractions
  • 37% of visits to attractions were to museums
  • More than 70% of most inbound visitors had an interest in Scottish heritage and culture
  • Museum architecture adds to how the collections they house are experienced
  • The almost 62% of museums in urban areas received 82% of the total museum visits
  • Ancestral and event tourism and other niche markets rely upon museum involvement
  • Free admission attractions received more visits than museums with paid admission
  • Typical museum visitor profile – 74.5% of visitors are adults, 25.5% children – is very similar to the profile for all attractions
  • School visits (280,350 visits in total) accounted for almost 4% of all museum visits
  • Nearly 64% of school visits were to museums with paid admission
  • More than 52% of museum visitors are local visitors – making museums a vital local cultural facility
  • Museum staff mainly comprise volunteers (50%), full-time paid employees (25%) and part-time paid employees (14%)

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Download Realising the True Impact (PDF, 3MB)
Published May 2005
Research Conducted By Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development
Research Funded By Museums Galleries Scotland