Alison Brick reports on an uptick in museum visits in the U.S.
We’ve finally found an upside to the recession–thriving museums.
According to a report by the American Association of Museums, attendance increased at 57 percent of museums in 2009. It’s all because of the recession–specifically, people opting to stay local, preferring the price of a museum ticket (averaging $7) to a more expensive movie ticket, and wanting a peaceful experience during stressful times.
The AAM survey was conducted online over ten days in January, collecting responses from 481 museums (ranging from art museums to children’s museums, zoos to gardens). Interestingly, the museums that felt the biggest boost in attendance were those focusing on science and technology.
That’s not to say that museums weren’t affected negatively–let’s not forget that they’re vying for entertainment dollars. More museums now charge an admission fee (66 versus 59 percent in 2008), and 23 U.S. museums closed in 2009.
But as a whole, museums are adapting to these tough financial times. They’re directing more of their marketing dollars locally, offering new discounts to local residents (18 percent), and adding free days (29 percent).
So if we’re heading to museums because of the bad economy, it’s the free admission days that should really make us happy. They come in all shapes and forms, from one-offs to reoccurring to month-long. Click through for a list of free museum days happening near you.
In some cases, we have corporations to thank for getting into museums for free. Bank of America sponsors free days to many U.S. museums throughout the year during their “Museums on Us.” BofA members just show their ATM, debit, or credit card to the museum during the first weekend of every month, and they get free admission.
Specific days to mark on your calendar are May 18–International Museum Day, and September 25–Museum Day, sponsored by Smithsonian magazine. In Miami, May is also Miami Museum Month, when most local museums offer 2-for-1 discounts.
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With a little Web research, you can also catch museum-specific free weeks, such as the one on now at Augusta, Georgia’s Morris Museum (through March 14), or San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences, which is offering free admission for firefighters, police officers, military personnel, and teachers (through March 15).
Otherwise, check with your favorite local museum to see if they have reoccurring free days, sometimes in part because of sponsorships by corporations like Target. Many large museums across the U.S. do–you just need to keep alert to which day it is. If you’re in New York, the Museum of Modern Art is free on Friday evenings (4-8 p.m.). If you’re in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago is free on Thursday evenings (5-8 p.m.). For an overview on more free things in many major cities check out Traveler’s Free City GuidesTraveler’s Free City Guides.
Photo: Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is one of the many museums that offer free admission to Bank of AmericaYang and Yun’s Album via Flickr.