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British Asians encouraged to attend galleries as visitor numbers fall

Gill Lambert (second left), architect at AOC Architecture, discusses ideas with children as
everyone is invited to help redesign the new V&A Museum of Childhood last week.
Gill Lambert (second left), architect at AOC Architecture, discusses ideas with children as everyone is invited to help redesign the new V&A Museum of Childhood last week.


THE proportion of British Asian children visiting a museum or gallery has fallen to around 38 per cent and is lower than the national average, according to government figures.

Just 37.9 per cent of people of south Asian origin aged 16 and over went to an arts or historical institution in 2017-2018 compared to 47.3 per cent the previous year.

The figure among the white community was 51.4 per cent and among people of mixed race it was 48.4 per cent, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport data showed.

Experts have urged British Asian families to take their kids to museums and art galleries from a young age to spark their interest.

Reena B Patel, a parenting expert and psychologist, said the visits can expand young people’s curiosity and improve their language skills and development.

She told Eastern Eye: “Museums are the caretakers of history and hold artefacts in a
visual form so children can understand what has taken place in the past.

“It’s like listening to story books, but listening to the story from the artefact. When listening to stories, children develop inferencing skills. They learn to identify and ask relevant questions and infer what they think would happen next.

“They also learn empathy. Museums offer opportunities for children to compare and contrast what is important for them which leads to higher critical thinking skills.

“This can lead to great family discussions and interesting conversations. Parents can ask questions about what is different or what they observe to be the same. Thus, encouraging
questions from children about what they see.”

The figures, published in May, also showed the national average was 49.7 per cent of people aged 16 and over visiting a museum or gallery.

Among south Asians, the figure was 45.7 per cent in 2012/13 but slumped to 39.9 per cent in 2014-2015 before increasing to nearly 50 per cent the following year.

Separate government figures showed the percentage of British Asians who visited heritage sites including historic towns, buildings and gardens fell from 61.5 per cent in 2013-2014 to 54.4 per cent in 2017-2018. In the same period, the figure among the white community had risen from 74.1 per cent to 76 per cent.

BBC presenter Sonali Shah, a mother of two, told Eastern Eye: “We are so lucky to have such a wide variety of museums in Britain.

“Our visits have been some of our favourite family days out. So many have free access areas, you don’t have to worry if the kids get tired of walking around after an hour
– a museum visit doesn’t have to be an all-day affair.

“My children love the Science Museum and my five-year-old still talks about the first time she saw a dinosaur at the Natural History Museum at the age of two.”

Just 19 per cent of museums are working with minority ethnic communities, according to the Museums Association’s annual Museums in the UK survey published in June.

One person in the sector questioned by researchers said: “In a climate of ongoing financial strain, social and political tensions we continue to work towards creating memorable
experiences for everyone and challenge.”