Museum Admission Fees

Over the summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art raised its suggested admission donation to $25. The Museum of Modern Art and our own Boston Museum of Fine Arts have followed suit.

The moves have sparked a number of articles both for and against, and this one from the Art Newspaper website is by far the best, offering a good overview of the questions and challenges that surround the question of what a museum should charge for admission.

What do you think? Do some museums charge too much? Should all museums charge more? Should they all be free?

A Guide to Guidestar

With the advent of the internet age, we all have a LOT more tools in our hands to begin to learn about specific organizations – and particularly specific museums. Whether you’re doing some research into a museum you’d like to work for, trying to get a good picture for how a museum of a certain size operates, or considering donating to a museum, there are some great tools out there that are promoting transparency and openness for nonprofit organizations.

Today, we’re highlighting Guidestar.

Guidestar is essentially a database of all sorts of nonprofit information. Organizations can establish their profiles and post information – financial statements, programs and events, staff listings, and recent news items. There’s also a section in which the organization can advertise its current funding needs.

Guidestar’s mission is: “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”

To access the full capabilities of Guidestar, you’ll need to register. It’s easy and free, and they send a minimum of email. So, start here.

Once you’ve registered, you can navigate the site by searching for a specific organization, or try a more advanced search for organizations in a particular area or focus. Doing a general search on “museum” brings up some of the heavy hitters on the first page:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum of Modern Art

American Museum of Natural History

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Field Museum of Natural History

Organizations are responsible for updating their own information, so what you see is what the museum gives you. The Met, for example, hasn’t put up their budget numbers, but they have linked to their 2007-2009 990 tax forms and their 2010 Annual Report. (Watch this space for a guide to interpreting museum annual reports, by the way.) They don’t have a lot under staff or programs, either.

The American Museum of Natural History offers some different information. It lists all its board members, and gives a programs overview that includes its budget: almost $149 million. The MFA Houston also has all its board members and programs information, though no budget.

After quite a bit of searching and clicking, the best museum profile I found belonged to our local USS Constitution Museum. They have background statements, staff information, financial information, programs information, and they’ve even put up some of their funding goals. Bravo to them. (You’ll notice that a Guidestar user has also given the museum an enthusiastic five star review!)

Most museums put a bare minimum of information in Guidestar, which is a shame – it’s a powerful tool that’s quick and simple to update. Administrative and financial transparency is a hot topic in the nonprofit world right now – check out the Christian Science Monitor’s Guide to Giving for recent articles about that very subject.

Think about it: if you’re trying to figure out where to donate your hard-earned money, do you give to the organization that’s tight-fisted and secretive about how it’s going to use that money, or do you want an organization who opens its books and says “here, here’s how your $20 made a substantive difference in the way we do our work”?

Guidestar also offers other tools for nonprofit professionals, including a series of webinars about development, community outreach, and other important topics.

Emily Fisher Landau Fellow [Museum of Modern Art]

Emily Fisher Landau Fellow (2 year grant funded) | Education*
Evaluates and assesses education programs and interpretive resources
(written, audio, multimedia) for a wide range of audiences, including
family, teacher, and access audiences. Support relevant
studies (with Departments of Marketing, Development, Visitor Services,
etc.). Facilitates multi-part and ongoing program evaluation using
formative, observational, and summative methodology and practice.
and administers evaluation questionnaires. Performs tabulation and
extrapolation of collected data, and creates reports outlining
Assembles presentations of research findings, and updates
about MoMA Education Department¹s research initiatives. Coordinates
projects for the Cross Departmental Working Group on Visitor Learning
consultation with the Director of Interpretation and Research and
Director for Education. Coordinates special research projects for the
Director that have impact across the department as a whole and for the
of museum education. Reports to the Director of Interpretation and
and the Deputy Director for Education.

*Requirements:* MA/MS in art education, museum studies, art history,
education, or studio/media art or related field. Background in art
and museum education and/or research. Minimum two years¹ experience
in a museum or education setting. Knowledge of qualitative research
including: data collection, organization, and tabulation. Knowledge of
quantitative methods preferred. Strong computer skills, including
proficiency with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and survey software.
organizational and project management skills including: keen attention
time-sensitive tasks, details, and follow-up; ability to multi-task on
several projects simultaneously. Excellent verbal and writing. Ability
work with other museum staff. Knowledge of modern and contemporary art
preferred. Application deadline is October 28, 2011.