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Cultural forces

Pauline McLean | 21:33 UK time, Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Glasgow museums are rightly defensive about the east versus west slant of today's statistics from the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

Despite a 21% drop in visitor numbers at Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery (largely due to severe weather and industrial action) it remains the leading free visitor attraction in Scotland with 1,070,521 visits last year.

Even with the closure of the Transport Museum last Easter, its combined museum attendance still tops that of the combined forces of the national galleries in Edinburgh.

It's a sore point for Glasgow's galleries, which have long argued their collections deserve equal status to the national collections.

Pulling power

Does it matter? Well yes, the wider picture does matter in reminding authorities in these cash-strapped times of the pulling power and importance of our cultural institutions.

Across the UK, ALVA members said they anticipated an increase in tourism around the royal wedding.

The Scottish institutions are just part of a much wider cultural picture drawing tourists here, and keeping them here.

It's about acknowledging the support of local communities too - and making sure visitor attractions are used all year round by all sorts of people.

And as we prepare to welcome the return of some old treasures - closed for long-overdue refurbishment (the National Museum of Scotland, the National Portrait Gallery and Stirling Castle) it's also a reminder of the wealth of culture we have at our disposal.

And there may be new entries too. Glasgow is confident that next year's numbers will be up - not just because of better weather - but because they'll have a brand new space - the Riverside Museum.

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