Time to drop digital booking barriers for visitors

I have been visiting museums and galleries over the summer, partly to write a Geek’s Guide for the Register on Oxford University’s history of medical science leading to its ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, partly for the joy of it. But some visits are marred by unnecessary digital barriers put up during the pandemic that should now be scrapped.

One museum (not in Oxford) required separate timed online tickets to enter and for each special exhibition, which meant guessing how long you would spend in one exhibition to meet the 30-minute time-slot for the next one. One gallery was asking visitors at its door to book a free online ticket before entering, although it looks like it has since changed its policy.

Insisting on booking frustrates spontaneous visits if you stumble upon a place or find you have time to spare. In Manchester in August I found that the city’s brilliant art gallery was open without booking and was hosting what turned out to be an enjoyable exhibition on hot drinks (on until 14 December). At the top of its website homepage are the words “We’re open!”

Manchester Art Gallery We're open

Museums and galleries should be following Manchester Art Gallery and welcome walk-ins again. Visiting somewhere you hadn’t thought of or didn’t even know about until a few minutes ago is one of the great city pleasures. Let’s bring spontaneity back.

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