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New report measures value of public investment in culture

Date: 14/10/2015

Over the weekend many of us will go to public museums, heritage sites and art galleries many of which are free to enjoy. For those who run these cultural institutions it is a challenge to capture the full value of their work. A new report, published today, addresses this challenge by examining the value of cultural institutions to individuals in society.

Commissioned by the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project and using two of the UK premier cultural institutions, the Natural History Museum (NHM) and Tate Liverpool (TL), the report explores alternative approaches and practical evaluation techniques to measuring the value of culture.

The report addresses an evidence gap as far as cultural policy is concerned and has the potential to bring quantitative economic techniques to policy debates which, say the authors of the report, have been “fragmented and curiously ungrounded in empirical evidence”.

While standard economic impact studies have tended to value the market benefits of culture, it has been harder to assess the value of culture to individuals in society, since indicators do not exist and many cultural institutions are free at the point of use. But an understanding of this value is crucial, say the authors, for the appraisal of public investments in culture.

The report is a collaboration between the Cultural Value Project, Nesta and consultants Simetrica and represents an important milestone towards the development and delivery of the final report of the Cultural Value Project in January 2016.

Hasan Bakhshi of Nesta said: “Our study shows that, despite the many challenges, economic valuation techniques that are commonly used in areas like environmental policy, like willingness to pay and subjective wellbeing, can be applied successfully to cultural institutions. We no longer need rely on just implicit judgments on the social value of culture.”

Daniel Fujiwara of Simetrica said: “The cultural sector has become increasingly interested in measuring the value that it creates and this report shows how a range of valuation methods used in economics can be used to value a wide variety of outcomes and benefits associated with cultural institutions. These methods allow us to move away from valuing culture just in terms of its economic impact to thinking about value in a much wider sense in terms of impacts on people’s quality of life. Going forward we hope that these methods become more commonplace in the cultural sector.”

Professor Geoffrey Crossick, Director of the Cultural Value Project, said: “The Cultural Value Project approaches the way we understand the value of arts and culture both to individuals and to society in many different ways. This report is an important contribution to that range of approaches. It moves forward the potential for using economic valuation techniques, and it does so in ways that we believe will be of direct relevance not only to government but also to the cultural sector itself.”

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “We already understand the important contribution culture makes to the UK economy but this latest report gives us new tools to understand how we can better measure the impact culture has on well-being and quality of life. I welcome this research and believe it will be invaluable in helping us understand and explain the extraordinary and far-reaching value of arts and culture."

The report is available to download (PDF 650KB) (PDF, 1.8MB).

For further information, please contact Philip Pothen:p.pothen@ahrc.ac.uk or 01793 41 6022.



Notes for editors

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK - www.ahrc.ac.uk

Nesta (www.nesta.org.uk) is the UK's innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery.

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