DCMS blog

Increasing audiences, improving experiences

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Kate Carreno

Assistant Director, Operations and Engagement at The Fitzwilliam Museum

Find out what a difference the VAT 33a scheme has made to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

The inclusion of university museums in the scheme to recover VAT in 2004, while retaining free admission to the museum and permanent collections, was very welcome. The decision to apply was very straightforward as the benefits are substantial and the Museum’s former Director, Duncan Robinson, had long campaigned for university museums to share the same benefits as the national institutions.  The process is very straightforward, although we do need to be aware of which areas qualify for the VAT relief and which don’t.

Increasing audiences, improving experiences

The scheme has been of particular benefit to capital (building) projects which have resulted in huge improvements to the Museum over the last 14 years.  It has supported repairing and maintaining the glass domed roof lantern above our Founder’s Entrance and restoration of the Museum’s Victorian railings, as well as improvements to the display of our collections through refurbishment of the Antiquities Galleries and the C20th Gallery.

It has also been a key to our ability to grow and enhance our exhibition programmes, acquire works of art and invest in online and digital access to the collections.  All of these projects, programmes and activities have greatly increased access to the Museum, and, over the years, played a significant role in helping us to reach wider and more diverse audiences.

A sustainable future

The scheme has allowed the Museum to retain its policy of free admission for the permanent collections.  For the last 10 years, we have been able to extend free admission to our temporary exhibitions, thanks to other dedicated funding for our exhibition programme. The VAT 33a scheme rules do allow us to charge for temporary exhibitions, and this is also important to us for our future resilience and sustainability.

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