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 credit card 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.

 

Venue Cost Key Benefits Transfers
Barbican £25 Discounts on events and cinema, along with options for private views of galleries. Fill in the gift membership form.
Benjamin Franklin House £25 Free 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.
British Library £50 Invitations 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. Gift details can be added to the application form.
British Museum £55 Free 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.
Burgh House and Hampstead Museum £15 Discounted 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 £7 Free entry to the tower, private views of exhibitions and friends only social events. Send them details in the application form about the recipient.
Charles Dickens Museum £20 Free entry for friends and up to 2 guests as well as invitations to public views, social events and an annual House Party Contact them via email for details.
Chelsea Physic Garden £33 Free entry with a guest (normally £9 per person), two newsletters per year, and invites to friends lectures. Special form on website for gifts
Design Museum £55 Unlimited 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.
Dulwich Gallery £30 Free entry to exhibitions with guest, and invites to private viewings, plus discounts on events. Fill in the gift membership form.
Florence Nightingale Museum £35 Free entry to the museum & half-price for guests, along with invites to private events. Phone them (020 7620 0374) to arrange.
Foundling Museum £30 Free 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.
Freud Museum £40 Up 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 (020 7435 2002) to arrange details
Garden Museum £30 Free 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.
Geffrye Museum £20 Friends 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 museum No formal procedure, but phone them (020 7607 9325) to arrange.
Georgian Group £40 Sizable 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
Grant Museum £15 Adoption of a specimen animal, special trips and invites to the events. Fill in the gift membership form.
Handel House £40 Unlimited free general admission for 1 person (normally £6 per visit), newsletters and regular advance event leaflet mailings and priority booking. Phone them to arrange.
Highgate Cemetery £12 Friends 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. No reply to enquiries
Horniman Museum £15 Invitations to private views and exhibitions, along with a quarterly newsletters with articles on the Horniman and details of forthcoming Friends’ events. Unknown – museum told me to write to the friends. No website/email.
Imperial War Museum £41 Free 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
Jewish Museum £25 Free 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 interest Contact them in advance to arrange details.
Keats House £25 Unlimited 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 party No formal procedure – but attach a note with the application.
Kew Bridge Steam Museum £20 Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter as well as a 10% discount on selected museum merchandise. Phone them for a special form.
Kew Gardens £69 Free 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 Evenings Recipients details can be filled in on the form
Lambeth Palace Library £15 Invitation to annual meeting and lecture. No reply to enquiries
London Motorcycle Museum £10 Two free entries during Friendship year (normally £5 per ticket) and regular newsletter. Add gift details on form.
London Transport Museum £26 Unlimited 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.
Museum of London £40 Unlimited 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 Archives £15 Friends only events and tours, and discounts in the book shop. Fill in the gift form.
National Army Museum £20 Exclusive Friends’ exhibition private viewings, visits and events and discounts on celebrity lectures and discussions. Phone them (0207 935 4236) for an ad-hock service.
National Maritime Museum £50 Free entry to the Peter Harrison Planetarium, Flamsteed House and the Meridian Courtyard, and Cutty Sark, along with private views of exhibitions. Discounts on talks and courses. Fill in the gift membership form.
Natural History Museum £65 Ten exhibition guest passes for your family and friends, behind the scenes tours and members room. Tick the box for gift membership
Old Operating Theatre £25 Two 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. No reply to enquiries
Postal Museum and Archive £20 Priority 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.
RAF Museum £20 Three 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.
Royal Institution of Great Britain £30 Entry to members only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases from the RI. Fill in the gift membership form.
Sir John Soane’s Museum £30 Newsletter 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.
Science Museum Suspended!
Southbank Centre £45 Priority 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 £20 Free visits to Strawberry Hill, special tours, lectures, and visits to other historic places, alongside discounts in the café and shop. Aim to have a gift procedure in place by December.
The Guards Museum £35 Unlimited 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 Royal Academy of Arts £100 Free 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
V&A Museum £64 Free entry to exhibitions and previews, special members events and private room. Fill in the gift membership form.
The National Groups
Art Fund £50 Discounted entry to art galleries across the UK. Select the “give” option when buying.
Historic Royal Palaces £43 Unlimited access to the five palaces throughout the year Fill in the gift membership form.
National Trust £53 Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens. Fill in the gift membership form.
English Heritage £47 Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens. Fill in the gift membership form.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Will

    Can I respectfully suggest the British Film Institute too? http://www.bfi.org.uk/about-bfi/support-us-join/bfi-membership

  2. Viv Halom

    This is a great idea to help museums and organisations that have or are about to have their government funding cut. I also agree that the BFI who have a large archive of 35mm films (a dying format as most cinemas move to DCP) and need funding to keep up the good work of preserving British history on film.

  3. sarah dorman

    I’d also add the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery to your list.

  4. Hive

    This is an absolutely brilliant and useful list, thank you.

    Alas, if the Kew Gardens one refers to the friend category, they’ve recently changed it so that only a parent, spouse or sibling can be your guests, and unlike before you can only have one at a time. (I think this is massively unfair and discriminatory. However, it’s still a good deal, supporting a good place, and so I’m still staying a Kew Friend despite this.)

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