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Record visitor numbers for Science Museum Group in 2015/16

Today the Science Museum Group announced record-breaking audience figures, with 5,549,000 visiting the Group's museums in 2015/16.

Despite the challenges York tourism faced following the Boxing Day flooding of 2015, three-quarters of a million people visited the National Railway Museum—an increase of 3.1%.

The strong numbers at the York-based museum were driven by the 2015 theatrical successes In Fog and Falling Snow and The Railway Children, produced in collaboration with York Theatre Royal, and recent celebrations for the newly restored Flying Scotsman, the world's most famous locomotive, which is currently on display at the museum until 1 May. Visits to the National Railway Museum at Shildon in County Durham also continue to rise, reaching 213,000 in 2015/16.

Paul Kirkman, Director of the National Railway Museum, said:

The increase in visitors to the National Railway Museum is testament to the fantastic year we have had. Our ground-breaking partnership with York Theatre Royal saw two of the city's heavyweight cultural institutions pool resources, expertise and enthusiasm to engage audiences in the history of the railways in new, exciting ways. Now we’re delighted to have Flying Scotsman on display as part of our season of events and exhibitions celebrating the famous steam engine, and we look forward to welcoming more visitors to see the loco up close over the coming weeks."

Elsewhere, the National Media Museum in Bradford welcomed almost half a million more visitors during the last twelve months, an increase of 11% on the previous year, with 390,000 young people visiting the Science Museum in London as part of an educational group, a new record for UK museums.

The increase in visitors to the National Media Museum has been driven by a new focus on the science of image and sound. In February 2016, a partnership with Horrible Science brought almost 30,000 visitors to the Museum in just nine days, with Light Fantastic, the Museum's 2015 summer exhibition delivering a compelling new take on physics and impressive visitor numbers. The Museum has support from the community for its STEM agenda, with Bradford Metropolitan District Council investing £1 million for informal science education.

The Science Museum grew its audience by 2%, with a record 3,419,000 visitors in 2015/16, the highest attendance in the Museum's 107 year history. This figure includes 140,000 people who visited the critically acclaimed Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age exhibition, the Science Museum's most successful exhibition. The Museum also set a new record for UK museums, with 390,000 young people visiting in 2015/16 as part of a school or educational group. A further 84,000 people attended shows or workshops delivered by the Museum's outreach team at schools, festivals and science fairs in the UK and across the world.

The popular Manchester Science Festival, new Cravings exhibition and a lively creative science events programme for families and adults all contributed to record visitor figures of 707,000 for the Museum of Science and Industry, a rise of 4.1% on the previous year. The Museum welcomed 73,000 visitors as part of a school or educational group, an increase of 12% on the previous year. Bold plans for a new special exhibition space, due to open at the Manchester museum in 2018, will enable even greater visitor numbers in the future.

Science Museum Group Director, Ian Blatchford, said:

I'm thrilled we're breaking records yet again in London, Manchester, Bradford, York and Shildon. At the National Media Museum, the sharpened focus on STEM has triggered a record-breaking 11% rise in visitors, and in York the growth is a real success given the impact of recent flooding on the city and region."

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said:

The increase in visitors to the Science Museum Group's museums show that the popularity of science is increasing all the time. People are voting with their feet in Manchester, London, York and particularly in Bradford where the number of visitors has increased so much. It shows the public has a real appetite for knowledge and innovation, which bodes well for culture and the economy."

Part of the Science Museum Group