Our venues
Our museums and galleries

Also in this section…?

Annual review 2015 - 2016

Annual review contents

Pick a section to read more: 

As you can tell, we've been inspired by top tunes from 1986


Word up! A note from our Director, Dr David Fleming OBE

In 2016 we celebrate 30 years of being a national museum service, so in this report we reflect on our achievements not just in 2015/16, but over the past three decades. In recognition of the birth of National Museums Liverpool in an impressive musical year, and of Liverpool’s major contribution to the pop music industry, we’ve themed our Annual Review on 1986 music. 

Presenting our achievements in this way is fitting for a celebratory year, but it also  serves as a reminder of how important museums are to the economy, to our partners and to our visitors from all over the world. The role National Museums Liverpool plays in society is hugely important to the economy of the Liverpool City Region, as well as to the wider North West and UK. Culture is a vital part of community development and strengthening, and we are among the UK’s leading visitor attractions.

We thank all of our staff, trustees, volunteers, members, supporters, donors and visitors for helping to make 2015/16 another impressive year despite testing times, and we look forward to an exciting 2016/17. We still face financial constraints, but we continue to work hard to find new ways to provide an exciting programme and preserve our cultural heritage for generations to come.This is as true in 2016 as it was in 1986, and it’s a privilege to continue to provide an internationally-respected museum service for the enjoyment of all.

Walk this way

Walk this way – Our visitors

In 2015/16, we attracted more than 2.8 million visits – a healthy 7% increase on the previous year. Our visitors come from around the world, and contribute to Liverpool’s growing reputation as a top tourism destination.

This year more than one million visitors said that National Museums Liverpool was the main reason they were visiting the city. This figure has grown since 2014/15, so we’re delighted that our museums and galleries continue to be such a key attraction. Just over 37% of visitors were on staying trips, and 14% of visitors were from overseas, primarily from Europe, but also from further afield, including North America, Australia and New Zealand. Our waterfront museums – the International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Museum of Liverpool and the Seized! Gallery (Border Force National Museum) – are especially popular with our overseas visitors.

At the same time as growing our international visitor base, we remain committed to our loyal local and regional visitors, and aim to offer families and communities a museum service of which they can be proud. This year, 34% of our visitors were from the Liverpool City Region and a further 16% were from the wider North West. Almost a quarter of our visitors (22%) came in family groups, reflecting our popular ongoing free events programme and our reputation in the city region as a fun day out.

We are pleased that, in addition to the overall growth in visitor numbers, there was an increase in the number of visits from people with disabilities and from those aged over 75. This reflects our ongoing commitment to taking an active role in supporting health and wellbeing, and our dedication to making our venues accessible for all.

E = MC squared

E=MC2 – Our education offer

We aim for every child within the Liverpool City Region to visit a National Museums Liverpool venue, and we welcome children from much further afield too. In 2015/16, more than 370,000 schoolchildren and young people benefited from educational visits to our museums. During the year, more than 1,000 trainee teachers took part in a project to learn about the collections of our waterfront museums (the International Slavery Museum, Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool).

It was particularly exciting when we played host to the Destination Space programme. World Museum was selected as one of 21 UK science centres and museums to celebrate the European Space Agency’s first British astronaut, Tim Peake. Designed to inspire young people about science and space, the project engaged more than 17,000 people through education visits and family-friendly activities. More than 500,000 pupils in 58 countries tuned in live to see Tim’s video call to schoolchildren at World Museum. This was his only video call to schoolchildren during his time in space as part of the Times Educational Supplement (TES) #cosmicclassroom. The call resulted in seven million Tweets and saw it trending in the UK for six hours – comparable with One Direction releasing an album, or the US Presidential race!

Elsewhere across the museums our programme of free events engaged  schoolchildren and young people, adult learners, older people, families and community groups. Highlights in 2015/16 included 3,000 people attending Chinese New Year celebrations at the Lady Lever Art Gallery as part of a project to highlight the Gallery’s Chinese collections; students creating their own Magna Carta using stained glass (now on display at the International Slavery Museum’s Martin Luther King Junior building); and the award-winning Old Dock Tours, funded in partnership with Liverpool ONE, which continued to increase visitor numbers and receive enthusiastic feedback.

Take my breath away

Take my breath away – Our exhibitions

In 2015/16, we hosted 13 special exhibitions. These included Mayas: revelation of an endless time at World Museum, in partnership with the Mexican Government and the Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), for the Mexico-UK dual year of cultural cooperation 2015. This exhibition of 385 national treasures from the ancient Maya civilization led to an 18% growth in visitor numbers at World Museum and was visited by TRH The Prince Of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.

It’s Glam Up North at the Museum of Liverpool, was curated by world-renowned photographer Rankin in support of Claire House Children’s Hospice. The exhibition featured artworks available for auction from Turner prizewinner Martin Creed, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park CBE, and Peter Saville, Factory Records director, as well as works by Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, and Rankin himself.

The new year of 2016 saw the return of Eye for Colour, our award-winning interactive exhibition for families, for its 10th anniversary. The exhibition has been seen by more than one million people across the UK and Europe. Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion opened at the Walker Art Gallery in February 2016. It featured more than 120 artworks from institutions and private collections, including some never before seen in public.

Other highlights included Broken Lives, a powerful exhibition about modern slavery in India, at the International Slavery Museum; Picturing Venice, a beautiful collection of paintings at the Lady Lever Art Gallery; and On the Waterfront, an exhibition marking the 300th anniversary of Liverpool’s Old Dock at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Object of my desire

Object of my desire – Our collections

Our collections are important historically, socially and culturally, and attract interest from our visitors, researchers, academics and other museums and organisations. In 2015/16, we loaned 6,000 objects from our vast and varied collections to UK partners and 34 to overseas venues, including major loans to an exhibition in Japan. This was a 63% increase on the previous year and we worked with 12 more countries, making it our busiest year to date for loans.

One of the most exciting achievements in 2015/16 was the redisplay at the Lady Lever Art Gallery of Lord Leverhulme’s outstanding collections of 18th century English furniture and portraiture, Chinese ceramics, Napoleon collections, Victorian and early 20th century sculpture, and the world’s best collection of Wedgwood jasperware. This was part of a £2.8 million refurbishment of the Gallery’s South End, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and others, to return the spaces to their original architectural glory. Despite having to close part of the Gallery in 2015/16 for this work, we still saw growing visitor numbers and engaged new audiences.

To further support access to our collections for people worldwide, we have added even more to our online collections, including antiquities, maritime history, decorative arts, archaeology, transport, art prints and social history. These new website pages have been very popular with the 2.1 million visitors who used our website in 2015/16.

Say you, say me

Say you, say me – our social impact

We believe that museums change lives, and our work in 2015/16 has contributed to enhanced wellbeing, education, confidence and social connections. For example, our award-winning House of Memories dementia programme has trained more than 10,000 carers across the UK, increasing partnerships across health, housing and family care. We are currently responding to interest from the US, Japan and other countries following a hugely successful year in the UK partnering with other museums, hospitals and healthcare bodies. Ed Vaizey MP, former Minister of State for Culture, referred to House of Memories in a BBC Radio 4 interview, as being a “good example of how you can put culture and heritage at the heart of what you do”.

In 2015/16 we worked with colleagues in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, China, Finland, Georgia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Ukraine. We are committed to making a difference locally in the Liverpool City Region and North West area too. In 2015/16, we became the first museum service to sign up to the Autism Charter, part of an innovative project by the Autism Alliance and the Department of Health, to build autism-friendly communities.

We also contributed to Liverpool’s One Magnificent City campaign in 2015, a six-week programme of events that saw the ‘Three Queens’ ships in the River Mersey for the first time, attracting more than one million visitors. To celebrate, we hosted a series of events at our waterfront museums, which included special displays, trails, family-friendly activities and private functions.

When the going gets tough

When the going gets tough – Our income generation

National Museums Liverpool continues to work hard to supplement funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) with self-generated income. We raised 31% of our total income in 2015/16, amounting to £9 million.

We’re innovative in our income generation objectives in that all our commercial operations are fully managed in-house. The teams are completely integrated into the wider organisational aims and all work undertaken in commercial operations is for the direct benefit of National Museums Liverpool.

A new income generation team was established to maximise commercial  opportunities and to develop sustainable projects, including the innovations linked to the hugely successful Pre-Raphaelites: Beauty and Rebellion exhibition. The group has developed feasibility studies for charged facilities and has streamlined the process for prioritising projects with the strongest business case. Plans are now in place to generate additional income through new models such as sharing our skills, developing exhibitions with touring income potential, increasing voluntary donations, and charging for elements of our offer.

We have prepared for the launch of a new strategy to increase philanthropic support, created a commercial strategy, and developed a framework to increase our advisory services.We also continue to enhance our offer for business opportunities, such as corporate sponsorship and membership, conferencing and private events.

Other income has included support from generous funders, including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Esmeé Fairbairn Collections Fund and significant personal donations, to develop and protect our collections, build our audiences and bring culture to life. We thank all our supporters, including trusts and foundations, sponsors and individuals, who have helped us throughout 2015/16.Chain reaction

Chain reaction - Our achievements

Some of our key achievements: 

  • 2,847,986 visits
  • 31% self-generated income
  • £9m in self-generated income
  • 97% of visitors likely to recommend a visit
  • 14% of our visitors are from overseas
  • 1.1 million of our visitors told us they were in Liverpool because of our museums
  • 34% of our visitors are from the Liverpool City Region
  • 98% of people rated their visit as “good” or “very good”
  • 22% of our visitors come in family groups
  • £2.7m in external funding to support our work
  • £211,808 came from donation boxes
  • 13 special exhibitions
  • 2.1 million website visits
  • 370k children and young people on education visits
  • 17,000 people engaged through our Destination Space programme
  • 9k people took part in Meet The Scientist events
  • 17k learners worldwide join our Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)
  • 6k loans to 150 UK venues and 34 overseas venues
  • 10k carers trained as part of the House of Memories dementia programme
  • 78k Twitter followers
  • 51k Facebook fans
  • 2k Instagram followers
  • 5k media mentions
  • 7k downloads of the My House of Memories mobile app
  • 4 million objects in our collections
  • 4.6 billion years! That’s our oldest object – the material inside a meteorite, which fell in Mexico in 1969
  • 70k marbles sold
  • 27k scones eaten
  • 10k pigs in blankets served at our Christmas parties
  • 20k canapés served to our corporate clients 

1986 music playlist

Enjoy our playlist of much-loved tunes, all originally released in 1986. See the full 1986 playlist on YouTube