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'Average' MOSI must improve

Simon Binns talks to Tony Hill about the Da Vinci flop and how he still has eyes for the Corrie set

Written by . Published on November 25th 2010.

'Average' MOSI must improve

The Museum of Science and Industry saw visitor numbers drop by 176,000 this year, according to its latest set of accounts.

The dip was largely due to redevelopment works on the main building during the year, but was not helped by the flop of its highly-publicised Da Vinci – the Genius exhibition.

Takings from admissions and exhibitions plummeted from £1.5m to £124,000 for the year to 31 March 2010, which bosses said was ‘lower than expected.’

Visitor numbers dropped by 24 per cent from 75,000 in 2009 to 568,000, while trading revenue decreased from £332,000 to £111,000. The museum made an overall loss of £1.6m, an improvement on the £2.34m loss it made in 2009.

Tony Hill, director at MOSI, told Confidential in a candid interview: “Let’s face facts – lots of other museums and galleries in the region would have liked 568,000 people through the door.

“We still made some money. Probably in people’s minds, the main building closing meant the whole place was shut.

“But we’ve had pragmatic and open discussions to assess our galleries and we think they are average. That’s not good enough.

“It’s probably unfair to call Da Vinci an absolute flop but it didn’t do as well as hoped. Perhaps it did jar with the museum; perhaps people didn’t see the fit between art and MOSI.

“Also, we were just entering the recession when it launched in the November. If you don’t get off to a good start, it makes things difficult.”

Hill said the museum had been in discussions with Time Warner about hosting a Harry Potter exhibition in 2011 and 2012, but had been put off when it was asked to underwrite the first $1m of takings.

“On Bodyworlds and Doctor Who, our exposure was minimised and shared, but a lot of museums went for blockbuster exhibitions to bring in big numbers and big money. In the future, we’ll only take high profile exhibitions if they are right for the museum.”

Hill said the museum would be looking to ‘flip’ the funding structure of the museum, which gets around 79 per cent of its funding from government. That money is due to stop in four years and Hill may look to attract more donations from visitors and high net worth local philanthropists.

“Can it be done? It has to be done,“ he said. “We’re not an expensive place to run and one of the reasons Manchester has such good heritage is because philanthropists have helped in the past.”

Hill said Peel Group’s EventCity was ‘new competition’ but would probably be focussing on larger exhibitions, and that he still had ambitions of taking on the Coronation Street set as an attraction if Granada made the anticipated move to MediaCity.

“I’ve been here six years, and Granada have been playing the MediaCity hokey cokey all that time,” he said. “We’d love to take the Corrie set under our wing and it could be a cash cow as a tourist attraction.

“But it’s a 14 acre site that’s not worth what it was. We wouldn’t be able to fund any work on it, so who knows? But we’re positive about the future. We’ve got a great product and we think we can improve on it.”

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Ali McGowanNovember 25th 2010.

I do love MOSI and as a local resident, fully support it. But it's lost its way, massively. The latest improvements are not world-class architecture (the gift shop in a wonderful old building, finished with office ceiling tiles?!) but really rather average. Less is more in every sense. Exhibit-wise - loads of good stuff, but loads of outdated crap as well. And the tired Air and Space, as well as Upper Campfield Market bldgs... shame. OK so Rome wasn't built in a day, but where is the vision, passion, drive to improve? Some time ago a huge masterplan appeared - but didn't get funding so has quietly vanished. Does that mean the vision was crap? If not, why aren't we fundraising for it? And getting the vintage trams on the streets again? All these great ideas were flying around, but MOSI (which is ridiculous name for the place!) seems to have crawled under a shell and died. What. A. Waste. :(

Kevin TilleyNovember 25th 2010.

"Perhaps it did jar with the museum; perhaps people didn´t see the fit between art and MOSI."

At least Da Vinci foresaw gliders, parachutes & helicopters.

What on earth's the connection between Harry Potter & science/industry?

Even Doctor Who had a science thing going if you stretched things a bit...

Simone13024November 26th 2010.

I live opposite this museum and am really frustrating at how lacking it is. It could be brilliant but frankly isn't. There's an empty warehouse, loads of exhibitions that are so old they've almost done full circle and could be museum pieces in their own right. It's such a shame and then I see all this work being done on the exrterior and feel it's like someone whose internal organs are closing down, worrying about a pimple. I'm also concerned by the funding ideas which basically consist of hoping people give donations. Why not invite some private companies in to fund exhibitions? What would be wrong with that?

DoitnowNovember 27th 2010.

I don't understand why the museum just can't get the dusters out. Or why they can't just re-type the notices and laminate them. That would be better if done in a consistent style than simply having faded and unreadable notices up there.

sarahsmumNovember 28th 2010.

Sounds like there's a genuine love for this place - I took my daughter when she interested in anything I bothered to share with her (now she's 19 and lives in another world) and I too have a fondness for the place but clearly there's something missing - a master plan, a strategy (we all know the phrases we hate to hear).
If 4 or 5 people can come up with suggestions here isn't this the start of a Friends Group? Does MOSI have "Friends" that meet regularly to share idea's and inspire new projects, funding and otherwise.
Lets not let MOSI die or become part of Manchesters history xx

CrikeyDecember 1st 2010.

How depressing, difficult to put a positive spin on those figures!
I think simple fact of the matter is MOSI's lost its way because of a lack of a USP. Here we are in the world's 1st industrial city, with an incredible heritage of innovation, invention & achievement, but we can't showcase it.
Museum of Manchester?

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