An extract from RMG Annual Review 2013-14:
BUILDING ON SUCCESS
2013-14 has been a year of unparalleled success at Royal Museums Greenwich. Following several years of change across our sites including the construction of the Sammy Ofer Wing at the National Maritime Museum, the re-opening of the Cutty Sark, and acting as host venue for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian and Modern Pentathlon events, we have now enjoyed a full year of comprehensive, established programming.
This has included a run of highly successful special temporary exhibitions, from the spectacular photography of Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea, and Visions of the Universe, hailed ‘the most beautiful and significant exhibition I have seen in ages’ by Jonathan Jones of The Guardian, to the spectacular Turner and the Sea, our most ambitious and successful art exhibition to date.
Alongside these blockbusters our venues have staged smaller displays on subjects as diverse as satellite navigation, caricature and the Navy, Second World War arctic convoys, aliens, maritime war art, and astrophotography. Meanwhile the Royal Museums Greenwich contemporary arts programme has brought a new focus and a new audience to the Queen’s House and out across our sites, with major names in contemporary art, sculpture and textiles including Alice Kettle and Yinka Shonibare MBE.
In Autumn 2013 we unveiled a major new permanent gallery ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’ at the National Maritime Museum. This brings to life the tumultuous 18th century and explores how the Royal Navy shaped everyday lives as it became a central part of society, turning seafaring heroes into national celebrities. Showcasing Nelson’s iconic uniform alongside over 250 star objects from the Museum’s wider collections, the gallery opened to great critical acclaim and has become a must-see feature for visitors to the Museum. The gallery was short-listed for the Museums and Heritage Awards 2014.
Complementing these exhibitions and galleries, our events programming has gone from strength to strength, with both free and ticketed events all year round becoming regular destinations for everyone from young families to subject experts. Royal Museums Greenwich venues have played host to an eclectic range of events including art classes, music recitals, afternoon teas, candle-lit tours, film screenings, performance art and interactive science workshops, attracting whole new crowds of attendees.
RECORD VISITOR NUMBERS
These galleries, exhibitions and events have generated record attendances for our venues, beating all previous visitor numbers and in many cases far exceeding projected targets. Total visitors to Royal Museums Greenwich (including Cutty Sark) for the year totalled almost 2.8 million, the highest figure ever achieved in the NMM’s nearly 80-year history. Both the National Maritime Museum and the Peter Harrison Planetarium achieved record attendance numbers: over 1.5 million at NMM and 164,000 at the Planetarium. The website also performed strongly, receiving 10% more visits than in 2012–13.
Record visitor numbers can be demonstrably attributed in part to the quality and effectiveness of major marketing campaigns promoting the RMG offer to targeted audiences, with spikes in patterns of attendance directly correlating to the main bursts of these campaigns. The Visions of the Universe ‘last-chance’ campaign saw attendance increase from 168% to 233% of target when it went live, while the Turner and the Sea launch campaign attracted over double the target for that period, and its ‘last-chance-to-see’ campaign saw a 30% spike in visitor figures.
Ansel Adams: Photography from the Mountains to the Sea drew 119,364 visitors, 298% above the business-case target of 30,000 and 19% above the revised target of 100,527; it successfully attracted a distinct new crowd to the NMM, with 58% first-time visitors.
Visions of the Universe ensured an impressive follow-up to this, with a visitor total of 70,296 (44% above target attendance), and Turner and the Sea topped off the year in style with 131,046 visitors. With each of these exhibitions we drew in new visitors well beyond our traditional boundaries and core audience, establishing Royal Museums Greenwich as a regular venue for successful temporary exhibitions.
OUTSTANDING MEDIA REVIEWS
The success of the past year has not only been recorded through footfall: the established reputation and growing stature of Royal Museums Greenwich has been reflected strongly in the outstanding media reviews received for the year’s exhibitions and gallery openings. ‘Nelson, Navy, Nation’, which as a permanent gallery would not normally be expected to attract as much media coverage as a temporary exhibition, prompted a tide of positive comments around its opening, with coverage from national press, television and radio.
Ansel Adams garnered four-star reviews from Time Out and Metro, and overwhelmingly positive write ups and ‘Critics Choice’ selections in The Daily Telegraph, London Evening Standard, The Independent, Financial Times and from a range of other art critics.
Visions of the Universe’s mix of science content with an art aesthetic attracted rave reviews including five stars from The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones, (‘to put it bluntly, this is the most beautiful and significant exhibition I have seen in ages’), four stars from the Independent on Sunday (commenting that the exhibition was impressively accessible and aesthetically thrilling), highlighted by Metro as ‘mindboggling’ and selected as Critics’ Choice in The Times on four separate occasions.
Turner and the Sea impressed critics across the board, awarded five stars by The Times for ‘a wonderfully invigorating show…the spectator will find themself swept away’, four stars by The Daily Telegraph (‘What a show this is […] Wow.’), hailed as ‘extraordinary’ by the London Evening Standard, ‘beautiful’ by the Independent on Sunday, a ‘vibrant, engaging show’ by the Financial Times, and ‘astonishing’ by Andrew Marr in the Daily Mail. The Independent went so far as to say: ‘The Maritime Museum, with an ambition that Turner would have readily appreciated, set out to create “a world-class exhibition”. It has succeeded. It would be criminal to miss it.’
BRINGING THE COLLECTIONS TO LIFE
Royal Museums Greenwich have a veritable treasure-trove of objects across the collections on the four sites, from the historically significant buildings to ground-breaking instruments, personal objects, fascinating artefacts, world-class paintings, and unique photographic records and archive material.
Working with these assets, we have an unrivalled wealth of curatorial and interpretive expertise, bringing the collections to life for our millions of visitors through exciting exhibitions, insightful galleries, imaginative events, inspiring digital interactives, and successful learning and outreach programmes.
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