Your museum can be a meeting place, an inspiration, or even a local icon in your community. However, striking a balance between keeping museums affordable and keeping your doors open can be a difficult one. Research gathered by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) in 2015 discovered that 60% of all art museums required fixed admission prices, with only 33% reporting free admission, and 6% with suggested donations.
Instead, making museums affordable for all members of your community without compromising revenue is more of an issue. Below are a few resources that discuss the pros and cons of various methods in which museums can increase their attendance by welcoming families of lower incomes.
Museums for All
This national initiative brings together a coalition of museums which offer free or reduced admission (no more than a three-dollar fee) for patrons and families who present their SNAP EBT cards with valid identification.
This introduction provides an overview of the initiative and what it means to be a part of the Museums for All.
The website also provides a free toolkit and PDF which outline how to become a member of Museums for All, as well as reports from a selection of museums that have participated in the program.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also provides a webinar (as well as transcripts and PDFs of the presentation) full of information about the Museums for All program.
Though some question the merit of reduced/free admissions, The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences reported that Museums for All increased museum attendance by over half a million visitors.
Lowering prices for specific groups is not the only way your museum can connect with your community, regardless of ability to pay. Foundations, such as the Reiman Foundation located in Denver, CO, work to provide free admission for youths within a community.
Community initiatives, like the Pay It Forward campaign at the Roberson Museum and Science Center, which allows patrons the opportunity to purchase an additional ticket for someone in the future, who might be otherwise unable to pay.
Whatcom’s Project Homeless Connect has been reaching out to homeless communities one day a year for over ten years.
The Playtime Project seeks to provide homeless children with safe spaces to explore and play, offering spaces for kids to be kids and helping facilitate field trips to museums and historic sites.
The Incluseum offers resources and ideas on how museums can better engage with homeless adults, including programs such as Path with Art which utilizes the principles of art therapy to reach out to local homeless communities.
Working with local libraries can help bring bring disadvantaged visitors into your museum. The New York Public Library CulturePass is a successful example of this kind of program.
Additionally, consider working with programs like Blue Star to provide veterans with free admissions.
Other Things to Consider
Museum hours can be restrictive for many visitors. The 10 AM – 5 PM operational window can make regular museum visits difficult for working people. Some recent recommendations have suggested altering operating hours to accommodate traditional laboring hours.
Economic Status is not the only hindrance some patrons find in museums. Not all people of lower income experience museums in the same way. Check out some of our other resources pages in our Museums For All campaign to understand how to make your museum more inclusive for all visitors.