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September 20, 2020
Admissions at Mass. Nonprofit Museums Down for Second Year
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August 30, 2020 — Twenty of the most visited nonprofit museums in Massachusetts collectively posted a year-to-year drop of 2.2% in admissions last year, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, which follows a 2.7% decline the previous year, according to a newly compiled ranking.

Twelve of the 20 institutions experienced a drop in visitors in 2019, compared to 2018, ranging from a decline of 1.6% to 35.9%.

The ranking, compiled and published by the Boston Business Journal (BBJ) last week, examined 24 museums, including two for-profit museums, based on total attendance in calendar year 2019. Two of the nonprofits were new to this year's listing.

Two years ago, the largest nonprofit museums in Massachusetts posted a 3.0% gain in admissions from the year before.

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston posted the largest year-to-year increase in attendance—311,668 in 2019 vs. 244,506 in 2018—a 27.5% gain, which was also the largest percentage increase among the group.

The Old North Church/Old North Foundation in Boston, experienced the largest percentage drop, welcoming 150,000 visitors last year, down from 234,020 the year before.

Boston's Museum of Science (MOS) drew the most visitors in 2019, attracting 1,404,121, down 3.7% from the 2018 number.

Ranked no. 2 was the New England Aquarium, with 1,337,505 visitors last year, down 1.6% from 2018.

The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston ranked no.3 in 2019 with 1,262,000 visitors, up 1.0% from the year before.

Back on the listing this year was Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, after having been dropped last year, which ranked no. 12 with 239,837 visitors in 2019. New to the listing was the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, ranked no. 17 with 189,108 visitors last year.

Not included this year were the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, and the Old State House in Boston.

Sixteen of the 20 nonprofit museums did not change their adult admission charge last year. Two which did, EcoTarium in Worcester (up $1 to $19) and Historic New England (up $10 to $25) in Boston, also posted attendance gains – of 4.3% and 3.1%, respectively.

The USS Constitution Museum in Boston imposed a $10 adult admission charge for the first time, while the Discovery Museum in Acton raised its adult admission charge $1 to $14.50. They experienced attendance declines – of 4.9% and 13.4%, respectively.

Five museums increased staff, with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston adding the most staffers, up 18 from 39 the year before.

Twelve of the museums reported staff reductions, with the MFA cutting the most, down 285 (37.0%), from its roster of 770 employees the year before. MOS also reported a significant staff reduction, down 154 (36.5%) from 422 employees in 2018.

The largest percentage drop in staff was posted by the Old North Church/Old North Foundation, down 76.2%, having cut 16 of 21 positions. Staff numbers were current as of Aug. 1 and reflect reductions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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