The Best Things in Life are (Sometimes) Free

So while I burned the midnight oil and attempted to list all the fabulous museums that have free/reduced/pay-as-you like admission opportunities, a simple tweet put that all to rest – it’s been done.

While some institutions have the ability to provide such opportunities for visitors, other museums feeling the economic crunch have raised admission prices. In this interesting Forbes Magazine article published last month, Judith Dobrzynski proposes creative alternatives to these price hikes. She highlights the success of other venues and companies in providing price discrimination and tiered pricing for programs and performance tickets and asks why museums shouldn’t also consider raising admission prices during certain times of the day or days of the week.

Dobrzynski discusses the options and opportunities for variable pricing with the understanding that, “The benefits have to be obvious – early entry, fewer people.” As a museum professional, I must admit that my museum experiences are quite positive and memorable when I get a sneak peek and behind-the-scenes look at exhibits, often when the museum is closed to the public because of special programming. Even so, when I plan my museum adventures, I often look for opportunities to save money, even if that means visiting during more heavily trafficed times of the day or days of the week.

Museums that might consider variable pricing should first consider their audience and their mission and if such admission changes are appropriate. As the story goes, if the community is not supportive of “x” changes, their outcry will be heard and the end result may tarnish the relationship and mutual respect between institution and community. Furthermore, the idea of variable pricing may confuse and alienate some visitors who have embraced the idea of the museum as a forum with equal opportunity for interaction, engagement and participation. Dobrzynski responds to such concerns by adding, “…the public has to understand the rationale, knowing that those who can’t afford the premium are still welcome during most museum hours.” However, considering some stereotypes about museums, such pricing alternatives may only contribute to the notion that museums are elitiest institutions for the elite.

Keep your eyes and ears open for museums that may consider this alternative, and do share your thoughts!

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One thought on “The Best Things in Life are (Sometimes) Free

  1. Recently came across a great article, “The Metropolitan Museum of Other Stuff” in the May 2009 issues of CityScoops (or is it City Scoops) which lists a number of less expensive cultural venues to frequent while hopping around NYC. Museums/galleries include: Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art ($5 suggested donation), Forbes Galleries (free) and the Museum at FIT (free) just to name a few. Bruce Cherry, the author, discusses some of the current exhibits on view as well, for more info check out this url for an online version of the article: http://www.cityscoopsny.com/?p=1210

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