May 20, 2018
Mass. Nonprofit Museums Register Attendance Gains

August 24, 2017 — Twenty-three of the most visited nonprofit museums in Massachusetts collectively posted a 4% attendance gain last year, over the year before, with institutions reporting the strongest gains having some of the smallest staffs, according to a newly compiled ranking.

The Old State House in Boston, welcomed 24.5% more visitors in 2016 compared to the year before—119,556 vs. 96,067—the largest percentage increase among the museums.

The ranking, compiled and published in the Boston Business Journal (BBJ), examined the largest museums based on total attendance in calendar year 2016.

Boston's Museum of Science (MOS) was the top drawing museum, attracting 1,397,642 visitors in 2016. However, that represented a 7.6% drop in attendance from 2015, the largest percentage and numerical decline among the 23 museums.

MOS had the second highest number of paid staff (618) and charged one of the highest adult admission prices ($25), according to the BBJ. In contrast, the Old State House with 65 paid staff had the second to lowest adult admission fee ($10) among institutions with set prices.

The USS Constitution Museum, which saw attendance grow 23.5% (507,881 people in 2016), and Old North Church, which posted a 4.7% attendance gain (605,320 people in 2016), both in Boston, suggest a donation in place of a set admission fee.

Seventeen of the organizations reported attendance gains in 2016, over 2015 levels, and five reported attendance declines. MASS MoCA in North Adams was the only museum to report unchanged attendance levels, 165,000 visitors in each year.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has the largest paid staff of 747 people, experienced a slight attendance drop, 1,164,793 visitors in 2016, 1.5% fewer than the year before.

The Paul Revere House in Boston reported the smallest paid staff—25 people—but saw attendance increase 11.8% last year, welcoming 317,386 admissions. It also had the lowest set adult admission fee: $5.

Other museums with strong admissions gains in 2016 were the EcoTarium in Worcester (167,461 admissions, up 16%), The Discovery Museums in Action (195,292 admissions, up 15.6%), and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (218,694, up 14.1%).

Museums registering admissions declines included The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (201,882 admissions, down 2.9%), Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge (256,429 admissions, down 2.8%), and Zoo New England>, which operates Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham (584,073 admissions, down 2.8%).

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