Mapping museums in the UK

This article, written with museum guru Fiona Candlin, is the culmination of years of tortuous data collection and analysis and outlines a detailed quantitative geography of UK museums. It’s available open access in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. All the data and resources are freely available on GitHub.

Abstract: Museums are important centres of heritage, culture, education, and tourism. These diverse institutions operate in different ways, reaching different audiences and managing varied collections. Thanks to a novel database of unprecedented completeness produced by the Mapping Museums project, this study provides a quantitative geography of museums in the UK, showing how about half of the sector had not been surveyed before. The presence of museums is mapped across several attributes, including museum size (estimated as yearly visits) and governance (government-led, independent, or university-led). Firstly, observing a snapshot of the sector in December 2017, we quantify and interpret the spatial distribution of museums, discussing its implications for access to museums, public service provision, resource allocation, and cultural tourism. Then, in a regional analysis, we study their density in relation to the local population, at the regional and Local Authority District scale, providing new evidence of the extent of spatial inequalities in the cultural sector, particularly relevant to a sector in which funding is mostly allocated at the regional level. At the crossing between human geography and museum studies, this inquiry reveals the centres and peripheries of this cultural sphere, providing fresh evidence of the presences and absences that shape cultural life across the UK.

Keywords: museum geographies, museum analytics, geographic data science, cultural and creative industries

Reference: Ballatore, A. & Candlin, F. (2022) A geography of UK museums. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. Available from: