As cuts funnel culture into the hands of the few, museums are our saviour | Alice O’Keeffe

These radical places across the UK that encourage the spirit of inquiry are in danger of being taken for granted and need protecting

Last Sunday afternoon was the classic start to February half-term: the rain was sheeting down outside, and we’d already played every game in the cupboard and watched too much TV. My sons, aged five and eight, were beginning to squabble and whine, and I knew from experience that if we didn’t leave the house in the next five minutes things were going to get ugly.

Happily, we were visiting relatives in Liverpool – a city with a fine selection of museums, many of them free to enter. Within a few minutes of shoving the boys out of the front door, we were standing in the magnificent lobby of the World Museum, wondering what to do first: explore space? Check out the leaf-cutter ants? Take a trip to ancient Egypt? The place was buzzing with families escaping the rain, and with visitors to the opening weekend of an exhibition of terracotta warriors. By the end of the afternoon we had lifted a meteorite, found out about the eating habits of sea cucumbers (gross), learned about female pharaohs and watched Tim Peake drink water in space.

It’s easy to dismiss museums as fusty places that we’ve been dragged around on school trips

Related: UK museum collecting at risk from lack of funding, report warns

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