Museums are potentially congestible resources because the exhibits they contain are, in any relevant sense of the word, irreproducible. Insofar as visitor congestion diminishes the value of individuals’ visits it constitutes an additional reason for charging for admission to museums, albeit one not previously considered. A policy of free access to a museum containing unique treasures may dissipate the economic benefits of the museum.
Within the context of an empirical study undertaken using valuation techniques it is shown that the congestion cost posed by the marginal visitor to the British Museum is £8.05. Notwithstanding the argument that visits to the museum may possess external benefits, this points to the desirability of instigating charges for admission.
Insofar as congestion is a widespread phenomenon in important museums and galleries the issues raised in this paper as well as the methodology devised to determine congestion costs could have widespread application.