Museums and Access: Risings Costs, Splintered Attendence?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has quietly raised its suggested adult entrance fee
from $15 to $20, effective August 1st. An on-going budget deficit was cited as the main reason.
Bear in mind that this is merely a suggested donation - but, with that in mind, think of the hostility and scorn potentially brought down by museum staff on people of able means who short-change the museum. The realities of running a museum, including their operating costs, staffing issues, and requirments as cultural institutions with a necessarily stringent lists of standards, is now at odds with the issue of access, or the ultimate raison d'etre of providing a service to an interested public.
The possible problems abound. In their provacative study The Value of Things
, Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska provide a detailed of analysis of the ways in which withheld access and information could plague the experience of visiting museum spaces (in their case, results are drawn from a lengthy assessment of the operating procedures of the British Museum). Among other things, they notice the already-existing wealth and class hurdles of museums, as well as their ability to cold-shoulder data to even the most veteran researchers.
Arts education demands a certain amount of "being there" that the Met will no longer be able to guarentee. Though other options exist - in the form of digital curatorship and excursions to online galleries - prohibitive entrance costs could endanger the primary experience of the visual arts for a large number of people. But this begs an even bigger, and no less urgent question: "How can the art world in America survive with ever-dwindling governmental support?"