News that visitor numbers to the City Museum and Southsea Castle have dropped steeply in a year should worry us all.
Accusations by union officials that our city’s museums are being managed ‘into decline’ are serious, and the response of Portsmouth’s member for culture, cllr Linda Symes, doesn’t exactly instil confidence in their future.
Yes, she says that they will be ‘here for some time to come’, but her insistence that everything is fine is a little troubling.
A drop in numbers of 20 per cent would appear to be more than a mere blip.
And to assert that having put the collection online is damaging visitor numbers is downright odd.
While we appreciate that the city doesn’t have any artistic artefacts in the same league as Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa, the proliferation of images of that online don’t seem to do the Louvre in Paris any harm.
People who want to experience art works properly don’t want to just see them online – as any art buff will tell you, looking at something on a monitor is a poor substitute for the real thing.
Arts and culture always traditionally take a backseat when Conservative governments and local authorities are in power, and doubly so in times of so-called austerity.
Indeed, it is difficult to justify spending money on museums when vital, everyday services are also going begging.
But all of our lives will be poorer if we allow these cultural assets to dwindle and ultimately close down.
They enrich our lives and give us insight into our past and our heritage.
Visiting museums is the kind of thing many of us say we should do, but rarely get around to. Perhaps we should pay more attention to what we have on our doorsteps and get out there.