- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2000

Britain's leading museums and art galleries have been told they must meet strict quotas of ethnic visitors, or they could lose their funding.

In a move that has angered many gallery directors, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has ordered them to ensure that up to 12 percent of their visitors are from minorities.

The instruction is part of an "efficiency and effectiveness review" announced by the department last month and is intended to stimulate interest in the nation's heritage among young blacks and Asians.

However, some gallery directors say it is almost impossible to gather accurate statistics on the number of ethnic visitors. Others fear the quotas may prove unattainable and say they don't know how to make sure that more black or Asian visitors want to see their exhibits.

Opposition politicians reacted with disbelief to the quota ruling over the weekend. Lord Tebbit, a leading right-winger, said: "My first reaction is one of joy, because those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad, and these ideas have been fermented in minds which are gravely imbalanced.

"There are so many questions: Who decides who are the right visitors to museums? What do museums do if the 'wrong' people are coming? Are Jews a racial minority?"

Peter Ainsworth, the Tory spokesman for culture, media and sport, said: "There is growing anger on the part of museum directors that funding is increasingly coming with politically correct strings attached.

"What this government doesn't understand is that any self-respecting museum has been seeking to increase social inclusion for years, and they don't need to be threatened into doing it."

Some London galleries have been told they must prove that 12 percent of their visitors are from minorities, while three institutions in Liverpool have been set a target of 3 percent.

At the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, Roger Llewellyn, the head of operations, said: "We can hardly say to someone, 'Is that a suntan, or do you come from the Orient?' "

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