Museums’ Problems Revealed
It’s Wednesday evening and you’ve just come home from work. As you make dinner plans for the night, you realize that you haven’t been to a museum in a while. Excited over the notion of doing something other than dinner and drinks on a weeknight, all while satisfying your artistic craving; you call up your friends. The meeting time and museum are settled. You’re all set to go. As you grab your house keys, you catch a glimpse of your laptop sitting on the kitchen counter, and decide to check the museum’s visiting fees. And that’s when you see it — the museum closes at 5:45 p.m.
Have you ever wondered why museums don’t stay open late? I know I have. It has always bemused me why they close their doors right when people are getting off from work. After all, isn’t this supposed to be the city that never sleeps? Yet come 5:30 p.m. the warning bell sounds in most museums notifying its visitors that closing time is a mere 15 minutes away.
According to Dewey Blanton, Director of Strategic Communications at the American Association of Museums, financial matters are the core reason why few offer extended hours. And while many of us may silently think that extended hours would fix this conundrum, since more people would be inclined to visit museums on a regular basis, Blanton claims that there is more to it than meets the eye.
“It costs money to keep museums open and secure, and for most museums, less than 8 percent of revenue comes from admissions — couple that with the fact that 37 percent of U.S. museums are free, so extended hours should not be seen as a prime revenue source,” Blanton said.
“However, obviously, extended hours are Exhibit A in terms of public service. But the financial realities in recent years have made this problematic.”
Moreover, according to Blanton, the problem also lies in the limited number of staff members. In large part, most museums do not have enough financial help to employ more guards, guides, and curators to sustain elongated hours for seven days a week.
“With limited funds for operations, many museums cannot support the staff needed to ensure a seven days a week operation, while still giving employees a break now and then,” he said.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York is evidence of this. According to Sally Williams, Public Information Officer at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, due to a financial downturn in 1990, they had to limit the number of days they remained open. What’s more is that recently the museum reevaluated its hours and canceled their involvement in the Art in the Streets project, which is currently on tour.
According to Williams, the problem for the Brooklyn Art Museum also lies specifically in the fact that their location isn’t as traveled.
(Contined on next page)
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