Although they won’t charge for entry, new rules from the British Museum mean that tour groups of more than ten people must give a week’s notice as to when they wish to visit, or they may be turned away from entering the Museum, or certain galleries. Read more about it here (the basis for this blog post).
Given that tour operators make a profit from guiding people around the free museum - hurrah - as in some areas it can get very uncomfortable even when not at peak weekend times, so these people who benefit from bringing the tours should be more carefully controlled.
In a warning to tour operators, the museum said that those who failed to book an hourly slot, stating which part of the vast collections they wished to visit, “may be denied immediate entry”. In a message on its website, it continued: “This new policy is due to the significant increase in tour group visitors to the Museum and is intended to make the visitor experience more pleasant for all visitors.”
There has been some confusion and misreporting, believing that the British Museum wishes to charge large tour groups and/or foreign tourists for visiting. (Guardian and Daily Mail articles) A spokeswoman for the museum said “There are no plans under consideration for charging tour operators. The trustees remain absolutely committed to free entry for all.”
When your main museum is closed, and the collection placed in storage.
Then a family arrive, asking to speak to the person who has arranged access to the collection for them.
You find that another staff member promised they would "sort out access for them"
And no-one actually contacted the venue staff to even try and arrange this.
But like a well oiled machine, everything is sorted, they get a special secret tour behind the scenes, and they never know anything was wrong.
The Third of a few cartoons relating to the same art exhibition - where beautiful yet delicate pieces of vellum were displayed in the open on plinths, secured by pins. First cartoon here. Second cartoon here.
The artist insisted that the pieces not be boxed up or roped off, which may have worked well in a dedicated arts venue, but in a mixed heritage site/local museum/visitor attraction it just attracted the wrong kind of attention.
A visiting group of French students were very loudly and clearly instructed by their group leader to not touch anything - she even gave instructions in English, so we'd know the students had been warned.
After the kids left the room, she tentatively went to touch a piece herself, until she saw someone watching her -_-
We often get phone calls and emails from visitors who seem to want us to plan their entire trip, assuming that we have encyclopedic knowledge of local hotel availability, travel times... We always help were we can, as is appropriate, and I assume that other staff in other venues do the same. Some visitors just can't draw the line though, as this email I recieved shows:
Some of your 'agh!' type stories make me think you'll get this.
A bloke called me today who banged on about how much his wife wanted to come to our gallery, but he didn't, so he wanted to plan a day in their holiday for her to travel off alone with their daughter, and could I help.
He asked me to suggest travel for visiting us, he then asked me to check the times "because we're in the hotel and I don't have internet access". Then he asked me to book the tickets "because you've got that information in front of you now, so it seems a shame to mess about. I'm happy to read my credit card details to you."
I said I couldn't do that, because it's really not appropriate, or safe for him, but i could give him a phone number for the train people, or I could email the details to his hotel and he could ask the reception to help. He banged on some more about how much the exhibition means to his wife, and again I said I couldn't provide this service, so he offered to PAY me to do it. When I said no again, he offered to send the cash with his wife "so your work won't know".
I said that as a council staff member, I would loose my job if I used his credit card details, because of fraud, and they monitor computer use, so they would know I'd put his card details into a website, and I love my job, and it would be really hard to get another job like it. He apologised loads, said he didn't want to upset me, and gave me his phone number "in case they monitor calls and you're worried they've heard this."
The guy working next to me heard about a quarter of my side of the call, and then tried to calm me down because he thought I was really worried about my job!
It's a constant source of surprise, even though it happens so often, the confusion between museum/gallery/visitor centre staff and tourist information staff, and the persistence of some people even when the limitations of what is possible are explained, and alternatives are suggested. I've never been offered cash though, I wonder if I'm doing something wrong?... ;)
(The location of the gallery and type of exhibition were included in the message, I've removed these details though in case they help identify the venue, and the bewildered staff member.)
Customer on phone: Hello, I have a question about this really obscure subject X
Staff: I'm sorry, but we can't help with that directly. You may want to-
Customer on phone: I have called from Germany.
Customer on phone: We're running an event and were hoping you'd like to bring a display?
Staff: Thanks for thinking of us, but it's not something we do, although I do know a team who attend trade fairs and-
Customer on phone: It's in a local park to and we've got lots of support from... launches into a long explanation of their event and how worthy it is without any pauses.
Staff: That sounds like a great cause, but we don't have a team or facilities to support it. However-
Customer on phone: Explains the gazebo and table they could offer, the promotion taking place....and more explanation about how deserving the cause is.
Staff: Here's the number you need for the trade team.
Those times when you feel like suggesting that the tourists go and take the costumed guided tour and banquet, rather than visiting the historical venue and ignoring the staff there.
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