Over the break I went to a museum that I have long wanted to visit, but have not had the chance to do so. When I walked up to the ticket counter at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art I quickly realized why. I had always been under the age of 17 or a member of the museum, so my admission would have been free. Because I am neither of those things, the total ticket cost for my father and I was $40. That amounts to $20 each. I realize that $20 for admission to museum as well as tickets to a special exhibition is not that much in the grand scope of things, but I could not help but think, why isn’t this free?
Throughout the United States, museums charge patrons nominal to expensive fees to view some of the most important artifacts in our cultural history. In New York, the Metrapolitain Museum of Art sets their adult ticket prices at $25, for seniors it is $17 and for student the cost is $12. Though the actual cost is donation based and you may pay what you can afford, the prices are listed on large boards over the entrances and the “pay what you can” is in fine print somewhere near the bottom of the sign. The Museum of Modern Art, also in New York, costs $25 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $14 for students.
In the past several years museums all over the globe have decided to open their museums to the public through free admission. The only cost to museumgoers are trivial fees for special exhibitions. The Walters in Baltimore and the Baltimore Museum of Art are also like this. As a result, people roam their rooms on their lunch breaks, take their kids there after school, and sometimes students find a cozy bench in their favorite room and find some solace away from the craziness of academic life. In other words, the art is accessible and the general public can freely expose themselves to art. Who knows, when the art is available it may even foster the desire to spend money on special exhibitions or even donate to them later in life. The artist Henry Moore found inspiration within the walls of the British Museum, which he later sat on the board as a trustee and donor.
My point is that museums should work to lessen their prices. Yes it would be fantastic if they could all be free, but realistically it is very expensive pay for the upkeep, employees, conservation, travel, insurance, and everything that keeps museums open. People want to see art, but at what cost?