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October 26, 2021
 
Mass. Nonprofit Museum Visits Slowly Climbing after Major Drop
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September 23, 2021 — In-person attendance at the most visited nonprofit museums in Massachusetts plummeted 68.9% last year, from the year before, as the coronavirus pandemic shut institutions or otherwise kept visitors away, and while attendance has been making a comeback, those organizations still have a steep hill to climb, newly released numbers indicate.

All of the 17 most-visited museums posted attendance drops, ranging from a 7.8% decline for Zoo New England, which operates the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham to a 91.2% plunge for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, according to numbers compiled and published this week by the Boston Business Journal (BBJ).

Museum visits for the first eight months of 2021 indicated something of a recovery. From January through August, collective attendance at the 17 museums reached the same level as visits for all of 2020.

However, extrapolating those numbers for all of 2021, attendance collectively would reach 46.9% of 2020’s visits. That’s up from last year, when in-person visits in 2020 were 31.8% of total 2019 visits.

While the pandemic-related drop in 2020 was notable for its depth, museum attendance had been dropping in recent years. In 2019, 20 of the most visited nonprofit museums in Massachusetts collectively posted a year-to-year drop of 2.2% in admissions, which follows a 2.7% decline the previous year, BBJ numbers indicate. Twelve of those institutions experienced a drop in visitors in 2019, compared to 2018, in declines ranging from 1.6% to 35.9%.

Five museums increased their adult admission price in 2020. They were Zoo New England (up $1 to $22.95), New England Aquarium in Boston (up $1 to $32), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (up $5 to $20), Paul Revere House in Boston (up $1 to $6), and Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge (up $5 to $20).

Following are published total in-person visits for nonprofit museums, ranked according to total in-person visits in 2020, for which 2019 and 2020 data are available:

Museum

2020

2019

Change

Zoo New England

635,055

689,116

-7.8%

New England Aquarium

361,755

1,337,505

-73.0%

Museum of Science, Boston

344,550

1,404,121

-75.5%

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

234,432

1,262,000

-81.4%

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

166,668

346,000

-51.8%

Boston Children's Museum

127,105

542,234

-76.6%

Clark Art Institute

121,000

189,108

-36.0%

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

106,274

311,668

-65.9%

Historic New England

105,080

217,566

-51.7%

Tower Hill Botanic Garden

75,663

167,606

-54.9%

Peabody Essex Museum

75,026

223,646

-66.5%

Discovery Museum

58,583

199,204

-70.6%

Paul Revere Memorial Association/Paul Revere House

32,436

295,491

-89.0%

USS Constitution Museum

29,348

325,009

-91.0%

EcoTarium

20,878

178,128

-88.3%

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

17,593

199,173

-91.2%

Old North Church/Old North Foundation

16,000

150,000

-89.3%

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