Museums for All Initiative Attracts Visitors, Reaches Participation Goals
Thanks to outreach efforts and the work of participating institutions, an initiative from the Association of Children’s Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services has met key milestones and is on track to reach its second year goals.
An initiative from the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM) and its government agency partner, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), has brought more than half a million low-income visitors to U.S. museums and cultural institutions.
At the time of publication, the Museums for All initiative, which aims to make cultural institutions accessible to everyone, allowed more than 630,000 qualifying people to visit museums and had 194 U.S. institutions join the project.
“The goal really with Museums for All has been to strengthen and make more visible the role of all types of museums as critical community resources and highlight the [public] service part of the mission of museums …” ACM Executive Director Laura Huerta Migus said. “And the second is to make sure that every citizen has access to their cultural heritage through these really important and valuable cultural institutions.”
Through the initiative, participating institutions offer admission during regular hours for $0 to $3 per person, to groups of up to four people who receive food assistance or SNAP benefits. The project, which was first piloted in 2014, is based on several access models run at the city, county, and regional level. ACM administers the program and provides marketing and outreach materials, technical assistance and webinars, and strategic support for leveraging the initiative to participating museums.
After hitting its first-year participation goal of 125 institutions, ACM hopes to reach 250 by March 2018, a goal Migus expects to reach. She noted that ACM and IMLS are focusing their success metrics on the number of participating institutions, instead of public reach, because “we didn’t know which museums were going to be signing up in which order and, of course, the density of the population that is currently receiving food assistance varies widely from community to community.”
In order to reach more institutions, ACM will continue its recruitment efforts by attending other museum association conferences, working with partner organizations on cross promotion, and providing media collateral to participants. Migus shared that many participating institutions have also helped recruit others by sharing their marketing materials and getting local media coverage—resulting in areas like Chicago and Worcester, Massachusetts, where museum networks have adopted Museums for All.
And while Museums for All has already attracted a variety of institutions, ACM will be focusing its second phase of recruitment on further diversifying participants “because we want to ensure that every citizen has access to the cultural life that most speaks to them whether that be art or nature or animals or history or gardens, whatever that might be,” Migus said. “That’s really our goal, to ensure that every single person has access to the rich cultural enrichment and resources that are available as part of public life in the United States.”
IMLS and ACM have found that many museums are eager to participate because the initiative’s community-service focus aligns with the mission of many institutions.
“It is clear from the enthusiasm of participating museums that they view the issues of inclusion and accessibility as an institutional priority,” IMLS Deputy Director of Museums Paula Gangopadhyay said in a press release. “For many participating museums, the new visiting families are becoming repeat visitors, which is a win-win for both the museums and the new museum-goers.”