If you want to give something this Christmas that your recipient can use all year round, rather than socks and fragrances… give them the membership of a museum they love 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.

As a present, it’s a very nice thing to offer, as people who love a museum now find they are getting invites to private events and tours, and can go into paid exhibitions for free as often as they like.

Your gift is a a whole year of joy.

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.

The costs 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… a whole year at the very least.

Venue Cost Key Benefits Procedure
Barbican £59 Discounts on events and cinema, along with options for private views of galleries. Select the buy as gift option
Benjamin Franklin House £25 Free entry to the house, 2 guest tickets and discounts on events. Phone on 020 7839 2006 to arrange
British Film Institute £48 Priority ticket bookings, no booking fees, special events and previews. Select the gift membership option.
British Library £87 Invitations to a special events programme including visits, lectures and other events. Four free event tickets per year and other discounts. Access to a members’ only room. Select the buy as a gift option.
British Museum £74 Free entry to exhibitions and private members events. A members room in the museum and discount in the shops/cafe. Select the gift membership option.
Brooklands Museum £40 Free entry to the motoring museum, and special events. Select the gift membership option.
Brunel Museum £10 Free entry to the museum and invites to private events Send them the form by post.
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.
Cartoon Museum £25 Free entry to the museum, exhibition previews and discounts on events. Select gift membership in the online shop.
Charles Dickens Museum £20 Free entry for friends and a guest and discounts in the shop and for events. Select the gift membership option.
Chelsea Physic Garden £52 Free entry with a guest, free entry to partner gardens, and invites to special events. Select the gift membership option.
Design Museum £75 Unlimited admission, priority booking and invitations to members previews. Fill in the gift membership form.
Dulwich Gallery £43 Free entry to exhibitions, and invites to private viewings, plus discounts on events. Fill in the gift membership form.
Foundling Museum £40 Free admission to the Foundling Museum. A wide range of activities each year, including private views, concerts and talks led by Museum experts. Contact them (020 7841 3594) for a special form to complete.
Geffrye Museum £20 Reduced ticket price for special exhibition, invitation to annual preview and party, and free entry to the restored almshouseNote, the museum is closed for redevelopment in 2018/19. No formal procedure, but phone them (020 7607 9325) to arrange.
Georgian Group £50 Sizable regular magazine and access to an exclusive activities that includes visits to private houses not open to the public. Contact them to arrange.
Grant Museum £20 Adoption of a specimen animal, special trips and invites to the events. Fill in the adoption  form.
Guildhall Art Gallery £25 Free entry to paid exhibitions, plus free entry to Tower Bridge, Monument and Keats House Return the form with the recipient details.
Handel House £40 Priority booking for events, invites to private viewings. Phone them (020 7495 1685) to arrange.
Heath Robinson Museum £40 Free entry to the museum, members events and priority booking. Buy at the museum.
Headstone Manor Museum £10 Social events, visits and regular news updates Contact them direct to arrange.
Horniman Museum £34 Free entry to Aquarium and exhibitions, 10% discount at the shop, a quarterly e-newsletter and invitations to exclusive members’ events and offers. Contact them (020 8291 8169) to arrange.
Imperial War Museum £35 Free entry to all IWM museums, private views and members events. Select the gift membership link
Jewish Museum £35 Free entry to the museum, invitation to private views of new exhibitions and curator tours Contact them (020 7284 7384) to arrange details.
Keats House £35 Unlimited free general admission to Keats House and invites to supporters events. No formal procedure – but attach a note with the application.
London Museum of Water & Steam £25 Unlimited free visits, a quarterly newsletter, members only events. Select the gift membership pack.
Kew Gardens £79 Free entry for you and a guest to Kew Gardens and Wakehurst along with free entry to 14 reciprocal gardens. Also, exclusive events. Buy a membership gift voucher
London Motorcycle Museum £30 Three free entries during the year and regular newsletter. Add gift details on form.
London Transport Museum £30 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.
London Zoo £99 Unlimited entry to the two zoos, plus members events. Select the gift membership option.
Museum of London £40 Free entry to special exhibitions, along with special events exclusive to Friends. An invitation for you and a guest to Friends private views of exhibitions. Select the gift option for a voucher, or phone for a gift-wrapped pack.
National Archives £25 Friends only events and tours, and discounts in the book shop. Select the gift option in the menu.
National Army Museum £40 Advance booking for family events, and discounts in the shops. Contact them on 020 7881 2464 to arrange
National Gallery £68 Free entry to paid exhibitions, and invites to members events. Select the gift option on the website.
National Portrait Gallery £60 Free entry to paid exhibitions, private viewings and discounts in the shops. Select the gift option on the website.
Natural History Museum £73 Free entry to paid exhibitions, 10 guest passes, priority entry to the museum, private events. Click to buy, then select the option to send to gift recipient address.
Petrie Museum £25 Special events and tours, plus seminars and regular news. Phone or email to arrange.
Postal Museum Relaunching in 2019.
RAF Museum £35 Discounts on events, members evenings and behind the scenes access. Select the gift option at the bottom of the page.
Royal Greenwich Museums £49 Free entry to the three museums, private views of galleries, and fast track entry. Select the gift option further down the page.
Royal Institution of Great Britain £75 Free tickets to lectures. Entry to members only events, along with quarterly newsletters and discounts on purchases. Select the gift membership option.
Sadlers Wells £60 Priority booking and 20% of tickets. Direct link to booking page.
Sir John Soane’s Museum £40 Discounts in the shop, plus invites to special events. Fill in the form and add gift details in the email.
Southbank Centre £75 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. Select the gift membership option at the bottom of the page.
Strawberry Hill House £30 Free entry to Strawberry Hill, special tours, lectures, and visits to other historic places, alongside discounts in the café and shop. Contact them by email.
Tate £86 Free entry to all paid exhibitions, private viewings, and members rooms Select the gift option..
The Guards Museum £35 Unlimited free entry for member and guest, 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 £135 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. Select the gift membership option.
V&A Museum £70 Free entry to exhibitions and previews, special members events and private room. Buy the standard membership then select the gift option.
Wallace Collection £45 Exhibition previews, discount in the shop/restaurant. Contact them on 020 7563 9538
Westminster Abbey £50 Queue jump and free entry to the Abbey, plus a range of other benefits. Select the gift membership option.

The National Groups
National Art Pass £67 Discounted entry to art galleries across the UK. Select the “as a gift” option when buying.
Historic Royal Palaces £52 Unlimited access to the six palaces throughout the year Go to the gift page – here.
National Trust £69 Free entry and parking at more than 300 historic houses and gardens. Direct link to gift page.
English Heritage £56 Free entry and parking at more than 400 historic houses and gardens. Choose a price, then select gift.
Historic Houses Association £54 Free entry to hundreds of privately-owned houses, castles and gardens In the online shop, select gift membership option.

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  1. Jenn says:

    The Freud Museum also has this I think – I gave a membership (“friends”?) to my parents last year

  2. Mark Purser says:

    Very out of date. RIGB hasn’t provided free tickets for years. RA fees wrong.

    • ianvisits says:

      The RIGB says it offers free tickets on its website, and the RA price is as stated on their website.

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