Mass. Nonprofit Museum Visits Slowly Climbing after Major Drop
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%.