What it means

Free means eliminating the price for a museum offering, program, or initiative (e.g., “The program is free to attend” or “Admission to the museum is free”).

Free can have significant benefits to the public, the organization, and the community. When costs are removed for the audience, accessibility improves; however, it is important to recognize that for the organization, free comes with unavoidable costs and consumption of the organization’s resources. It is also important to acknowledge that there are hidden costs of participation for the audience as well (e.g., transportation, parking, food, or even opportunity cost of what else could be done with one’s time).

How it’s used

A museum can offer programs or admission for free on a periodic or permanent basis to support the museum’s mission or for marketing purposes.

Permanently free admissions or program offerings can also have the potential to reduce perceived value, commitment to attendance, and/or reduce the amount of time a visitor spends at an exhibition or event.

Free is not a substitute for direct invitations to a particular community to visit or attend. The museum should not assume that being free is sufficient as an invitation to participate, especially for minority or traditionally underserved communities.

Why it matters

Free admission or free programming is an important tool to increase access, particularly local community access to the museum and its programs.

For the public as well as the staff, it is important to communicate the value the offer brings despite its being free. Furthermore, appropriate public recognition should be given to the supporters that made free admission or programming possible.


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