Prior to leaving for a weekend in Philadelphia, I checked the website of the Please Touch Museum for details to plan my visit. I was shocked to see the admission price was $15 per person (older than one.) It would cost $30 for me to take Mirielle for a couple of hours.
Why was I surprised? Many of the children’s museums I have visited seem pricey: our local children’s museum is $11, our old local museum was a bargain at $8 for under 17 and $10 for adults, the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose is $10. Don’t get me started on the Cal Academy of Sciences at $25 for adults (though free for under 6) or our new CT Science Center at $16 for adults and $13 for kids in a city where the median income in 2007 was only $27,654 and over 30% of the population lives below the poverty line.
So a family of four needs $60 to visit museums which are often supported with public funds and whose missions are all about kids? How many families can afford a $60 visit these days?
Many museums have “free” days, but crowds can take away the fun, if a family is even able to get in. Another option is membership. Travels with Children has an excellent example on how to find memberships that are valuable. “Pay for itself” not withstanding, the buy-in for membership is steep at over $100 for reciprocal privileges with other member museums through the Association of Children’s Museums.
Our local library has a great program where you can “check out” free museum passes for a day which I think is a fantastic solution. (Please recommend it to your local library or tweet @whpl for more information). On a school holiday, I went to check out passes to our local children’s museum and the librarian informed me that they had chosen to stop participating in the program a few years ago. I skipped the $22 admission.
Are most children’s museums too expensive? Are they pricing out the people they should be serving? What’s your opinion? Does your community have any programs to make the museums more accessible regardless of means to pay? Do you think they are working?