Museums and Social Mores

Museums and Social MoresMuseums and Social Mores

Aside from care and preservation of heritage, museums are supposed to educate the general public on a country's history and help promote a cultured society. That is why museums such as the British Museum in London, which is home to over 8 million works, does not charge its visitors, Ali Sadrnia, a member of the Iran Tourist Guides Association (ITGA), told ISNA.

In developed countries when they decide to charge an entrance fee in museums, they also take the economic conditions into account, he said. Sadrnia, a former chairman of the ITGA, believes museums must not operate like businesses.

When museums introduce an entrance fee, it is because they need the money to improve services and provide better care for their collection. "But when Iranian museums increased their admission fees, they failed to improve their services," he asserted.

To make matters worse, when the fees were increased most museums were not equipped with POS machines, forcing tour operators to carry large amounts of cash to pay for their groups.

"For instance, a tour guide leading a group of 10 people to visit Golestan Palace would need to carry 10 million rials ($300). Now imagine if that same group were planning to visit other museums on the same day! How much cash would a tour guide need to carry to ensure they do not run into problems?"

If officials intend to increase admission fees again, the least they could do is provide quality services, Sadrnia said.

  Lack of Coordination

Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) provides discounted museum tickets to tour operators, but some museums managed by ICHHTO do not accept the tickets, according to Sadrnia.

"Therefore, tour operators are forced to pay again. This lack of coordination between different organizations can only harm tourism."

He voiced dismay with the way complexes such as Niavaran Palace and Sa'ad Abad Palace sell tickets, and said, "Visitors have to buy separate tickets to visit different parts of these complexes. For instance, a visitor pays 150,000 rials ($5) entrance fee, and then they have to pay an extra 100,000 rials ($3) for each wing of the complex."

This is not the norm in the developed world, so it is hardly surprising to see foreign tourists react badly to this inconvenience, Sadrnia said.

The veteran tour guide pointed at museums' short working hours and said, "Most museums and historical sites stop admitting visitors at around 5 or 6 pm, and some such as the Niavaran Palace stop selling tickets as early as 4.30 pm."

While museums in Iran open at 9 am and close at 5 pm, museums in the developed world such as the Louvre close at 9 or 10 pm, he said. "The short working hours of Iranian museums makes it difficult for most people to visit these establishments. It is highly inconvenient and detrimental to the tourism industry."