Being a Londoner, where entry to all public museums is free, I always find it slightly galling to have to pay for access to publicly-owned art and culture. Universal free access is actually a relatively recent innovation in the UK, brought in by the Labour government in 2001, but it’s one of those things that, once introduced, you take for granted as a basic human necessity. Like fresh water, or electricity, or high-speed internet access. In fact, even in the context of the current brutal public sector cuts, no British politician has dared to suggest charging an entrance fee to the National Gallery.
I’m aware London is pretty unique in this regard, but still, the cost of culture in Vienna makes me wince. On Sunday I forked out 12 Euros to get into the Kunsthistorisches Museum. This works out as particularly expensive on a per-hour basis for me, given that, much as I enjoy museums, they tire me out pretty quickly. While I would have loved to get my money’s worth and to have spent a full day exploring every nook and cranny of the exhibits, I knew that I stop having fun after a couple of hours, so I took a strategic approach and made a beeline for my favourites (see below) and then headed out in search of coffee and cake as soon as my head started to spin.
Still, I can just about cope with the museum charges, especially when the works are world-class. If you live in Vienna, the annual museum passes don’t work out too badly. What REALLY shocked me was the 22 Euro fee to join the public library!
What a way to disincentivize learning and cultural development! I’m pretty sure libraries are even free in that nadir of public service provision, the USA! Whatever happened to Red Vienna, eh?