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  • Writer's picturePhillip Ratliff

Visitation and Value in History Museums and Historic Sites and Houses

Dr. Bob Beatty is a museum consultant from Franklin, TN and on the Johns Hopkins museum studies faculty. In this article, Dr. Beatty runs the numbers on attendance trends of history museums and historic houses and sites. There are sobering — and hopeful — takeaways from his post.

Here’s the bad news. For every one person leaving the visitation market, about 9/10 of a person enters it. Over time, that adds up. Meanwhile, the public space that museums once occupied is being further commodified and commercialized.

The good news is that some history museums are bucking the trend. Dr. Beatty notes that four of the top 20 highest attended museums in the United States are history museums. Those four saw a net gain of 300,000 visitors.

Dr. Beatty concludes his post with a reminder we all need to heed: your visitation total is but one value metric. He argues that museums provide experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Going to a museum reminds us what it is to be human beings: “Museums should build on this understanding, and expand value at the local level, more so than we should lament flagging attendance at larger institutions.”

How’s attendance at your history museum or site? We’ll look a bit more at how some institutions are building their markets. Check out Dr. Beatty’s post and follow his links for a deep dive on the subject.

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