Free but at a cost

The Acropolis Museum in Athens recently celebrated its four-year anniversary. A big crowd turned up for the event, although there was a small difference compared to previous celebrations: Unlike all previous years when entrance was free, the museum which hosts the most important legacies of classical civilization this time charged a 3-euro admission fee.

I believe it was the right decision.

The policy of Greek museums and archaeological sites is to offer a large number of free-admission days on a wide range of anniversaries, celebrations, national holidays and so on. The reasoning is that such initiatives encourage people to visit such repositories of culture. However, while it might be true that nothing beats a freebie when it comes to attracting people, this is only part of the story.

We know that the freebie culture impacts on actual behavior. Even if we are talking about a small amount – 3 euros in this case – the entire procedure of getting your wallet out of your pocket and actually purchasing a ticket makes us more responsible and conscious as citizens. Because, right at that moment, you actually decide to offer 3 euros to the Acropolis Museum instead of a nearby kiosk or cafe; your visit is the product of a conscious decision.

This does not mean that museums should give up their social policy altogether. In fact, the opposite is needed. Containing the freebie mentality will allow for greater flexibility where the needs are bigger – like the unemployed and the elderly.

I never really understood for example why we journalists are entitled to free entry at museums and archaeological sites.

It’s small-scale, cost-free reforms like this that could bring economic benefits and help restore social justice.