I am going to make a suggestion. If you are looking for a present to give someone this Christmas, and you want something that they can use all year round – rather than socks and fragrances… give them a membership pack for a London museum they like to visit.

Most museums have some form of membership scheme and usually offer a range of goodies, such as free entry for museums that charge an entrance fee, newsletters and the bigger venues tend to have private members events in the evenings or priority booking for public exhibitions.

In these austerity driven times, a lot of museums are also seeing reductions in grants from local councils and other grant giving bodies, so becoming a Friend of a local museum is enlightened self-interest. You (I mean, the person you give the gift to) gets goodies, and the museum gets money.

I’ve trawled around looking at the venues I am aware of and seeing which have a Friends Society and listed them below.

Some have a very obvious process for purchasing a membership pack as a gift for someone else, others I have had to chase. The smaller museums the policy is generally to send the form to them with the recipients details on, but add a letter explaining that you want the introduction letter (etc) sent to you so you can hand it over as a present.

I’ve probably missed a few out – some by accidental omission and some deliberately. Inclusion in the list means that buying a membership gets you something back in return.

Yes, we should be willing to donate money and get a warm feeling in exchange, but most people want at least a newsletter or two and to feel somehow connected to the venue. One museum I once joined sent me just one letter, a year later, asking if I wanted to renew!

Some museums are I am sorry to say rather difficult to contact – but I decided to leave them in the table below as they have a scheme, they just didn’t reply to phone and email enquiries about buying memberships as gifts. The Cost listed below is generally for payments by cheque/creditcard as opposed to cheaper direct debit, as I will presume you will only be buying a single year’s membership.

A museum membership isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for… well, a whole year at the very least.

VenueCostKey BenefitsTransfers
Benjamin Franklin House£25Free entry to the House with guest (normally £7 per person). Discounts to Benjamin Franklin House events and quarterly newsletter.No formal procedure – will arrange if you phone them.
Burgh House and Hampstead Museum£15Discounted admission to special events and private views, along with quarterly magazine.Complete form with recipient details and tell them you wan to collect the pack yourself.
Carshalton Water Tower£7Free entry to the tower, private views of exhibitions and friends only social events.Send them details in the application of the recipient.
Chelsea Physic Garden£35Free entry with a guest (normally £8 per person), two newsletters per year, and invites to friends lectures.Special form on website for gift details
Imperial War Museum£39Free admission to Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast, and IWM Duxford. Discounts on special events and gift-shop. Special events for Friends.Recipients details can be filled in on the form
Freud Museum£35Up to three visits a year for you and a guest. Discounts on events and conferences. An invitation for you and a guest to the summer party and invitations to private views.Phone them to arrange details
Geffrye Museum£20Friends receive a 6-monthly programme of events, including specially arranged visits to lesser-known museums, private collections, galleries and places of historic interest. Friends are also invited to some private views at the museum and are eligible for reduced rates to various events held at the museumMain office thinks it’s possible, but not sure.
Highgate Cemetery£12Friends get free access to the East cemetery, free guided tours of the West Cemetery, a regular newsletter by email and access to member’s only articles on the Website.Unknown
Keats House£25Unlimited free general admission to Keats House and priority booking for the Keats Festival. Also, 4-monthly newsletter and invite to the Keats House annual garden partyNo formal procedure – but attach a note with the application.
Kew Bridge Steam Museum£20Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter as well as a 10% discount on selected museum merchandise.Phone them for a special form.
Museum of London£40Unlimited free entry to special exhibitions at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, along with a special events programme exclusive to Friends. An invitation for you and a guest to Friends private views of exhibitions.Phone them to arrange details
National Army Museum£20Exclusive Friends’ exhibition private viewings, visits and events and discounts on celebrity lectures and discussions.Unknown
The Royal Academy of Arts£100Free entry to exhibitions for you and a guest. Visit each exhibition before it’s open to the public. A private members room, and quarterly newsletter.Recipients details can be supplied online
Kew Gardens£69Free entry for you and a guest to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst (normally £14 per person) along with free entry to 14 reciprocal gardens. Also, exclusive events, plus Summer Open EveningsRecipients details can be filled in on the form
National Maritime Museum£50Free entry to the Peter Harrison Planetarium, Flamsteed House and the Meridian Courtyard, along with private views of exhibitions. Discounts on talks and courses.Fill in the gift membership form.
Science Museum£50Free entry to exhibitions and the IMAX Cinema. Exclusive invitations to exhibition previews and private screenings. VIP entry to our collections, curators and scientists through our member-only events plus VIP members area at Lates events.Fill in the gift membership form.
Sir John Soane’s Museum£30Newsletter three times per year, plus invites to the annual lecture series.Best to pick up a pack from the museum personally – or phone them if not possible.
Southbank Centre£45Priority information and booking for key events throughout the year plus no booking fees. Unlimited entry to all exhibitions at The Hayward Gallery, plus access to the private Members Bar for you and a guest.Fill in the gift membership form.
Strawberry Hill House£20Free visits to Strawberry Hill, special tours, lectures, and visits to other historic places, alongside discounts in the café and shop.Unknown
British Library£45Invitations to a special events programme including visits, lectures and other events. A 10% discount at the Library bookshop and online shop, plus further discounts on selected events. Access to a members’ only room.Phone them for a form for gift memberships.
British Museum£52Free entry to exhibitions and private members events. A members room in the museum and discount in the shops/cafe.Fill in the gift membership form.
Postal Museum and Archive£20Priority booking for BPMA events with 15% discount on paid events. Six-monthly magazine and 4-monthly newsletter. Special Friends outings and events.No current transfer procedure – but working on one. Contact them directly.
Cartoon Museum£25Free entry for a year (normally £5.50 per visit). Invitations to exhibitions, lectures, visits, private views, the cartoon collector’s fair and other social events.Phone them for details.
Foundling Museum£50Free admission to the Foundling Museum for you plus a guest (normally £7.50 per person). A wide range of activities each year, including private views, concerts and talks led by Museum experts.Contact them for a special form to complete.
Georgian Group£40Sizable regular magazine and access to an exclusive activities that includes visits to private houses not open to the public.Recipients details can be supplied online
Garden Museum£30Free entry to the Museum garden (normally £6 per person), the temporary and permanent collections. Reduced admission to certain events/shop purchases. Exclusive ‘Friends Only’ visits.Special form to complete for gift memberships.
Old Operating Theatre£25Two free admission tickets to visit the Museum (worth £5.90 per ticket), plus concessionary ticket admission for any future visit. Invitations to Friends Events and Private Views.Unknown
Royal Institution of Great Britain£30Entry to members only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases from the RI.Fill in the gift membership form.
Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum£12Free entry to the museum on any organised Event Day (normally £3)Unknown
London Motorcycle Museum£10Two free entries during Friendship year (normally £5 per ticket) and regular newsletter.Unknown
RAF Museum£19Three editions of the Flying M and the Society yearbook, plus access to visit to RAF Stations and other places of interest. There are Lectures and Film Nights at the London Museum.Add a note to the form that it is a gift and if you want the pack sent to you or the recipient.
Horniman Museum£15Invitations to private views and exhibitions, along with a quarterly newsletters with articles on the Horniman and details of forthcoming Friends’ events.Unknown
Design Museum£55Unlimited admission (normally £10 per visit), priority booking and half-price tickets for talks, plus entry to Design Museum Overtimes and invitations to members previews.Fill in the gift membership form.
Handel House£35Unlimited free general admission for 1 person (normally £6 per visit), newsletters and regular advance event leaflet mailings and priority booking.Phone them to arrange.
Jewish Museum£25Free admission to the Museum for one person (normally £7.50 per visit) and invitation to private views of the Museum’s new exhibitions. Information about a range of Friends events in the Museum and visits to other places of interestContact them in advance to arrange details.
Lambeth Palace Library£15Invitation to annual meeting and lecture.Unknown
London Transport Museum£26Unlimited free entry to Museum at Covent Garden during all normal opening hours, plus one free entry to Acton Depot Open Weekend each year. Friends’ visits to transport and other venues.Phone them and they will arrange details over the phone.
The Guards Museum£35Unlimited free entry for member and guest (normally £4 per person), quarterly newsletter, 10% discount on purchases.Add the recipient details on the form and attach a note asking them to send the gift pack to you.
The National Groups
National Trust£50.50Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens.Fill in the gift membership form.
English Heritage£46Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens.Fill in the gift membership form.


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3 comments on “Support a London Museum this Christmas
  1. Sarah Crofts says:

    Art Fund is also great because it gives you either reduced price or free entry into lots of London (and national museums). It is perfect when you are passing the Cartoon Museum and you just want to pop in quickly and cheer yourself up.

  2. TGP says:

    One thing I’m seriously contemplating next year is joining Historic Royal Palaces. http://www.hrp.org.uk/SupportUs/Membership/

    It’s £43 – and given that a single visit to the Tower of London is just shy of £20 it seems like it’s well worth it. Next year in particular they have some great stuff coming up – Kensington Palace still has Enchanted Palace on until Jan 3, then it will have the new State Apartments, Kew Palace is opening the Georgian kitchens and the Tower will have the new jewel house. I think 2012 (or the back end of 2011) is a very good time to join. Shame it’s all Central or west but hey – I guess not EVERYTHING can be in Greenwich.

  3. Amazing. I hit on this idea myself just this morning, and here it is. Well done. May I mention Friends of Kew National Archives which I joined myself today, as it happens. £15, or cheaper if you set up a standing order. They do 3 mags per year (I think), and host talks at KNA most weeks of the year. And 20% discount at the best London history bookshop in town, IMO.

    Agree with Sarah Crofts (above) of a mention too is The Art Fund. You get loads of free and cut-price entries to galleries and shows nationwide. I get my money’s worth and more every year.

    Friends of the National Army Museum is also good value at £20.

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  1. […] viewing opportunities (from £60 a year).Museums: Ian Visits has compiled an impressive list of London museums you could support this Christmas on behalf of your loved one. He’s even got details of the obscure ones (London Motorcycle Museum is a new one to us), […]