“We don’t have the money” is one of the biggest reasons we hear from people who don’t visit museums. And with the price of gas and some admission fees, we can understand. But this weekend, you can’t use that excuse.
More than 1,400 museums throughout the U.S. are taking part in the Smithsonian magazine’s Museum Day Live! event on Saturday, Sept. 29, and there is a participating museum located within a two-hour drive for most of our readers. The admission is free.
There is one hitch; you have to present an online ticket at the museum. Tickets can be obtained from filling out a request on the magazine’s website, www.smithsonianmag.com. You will then be sent an electronic ticket for two (by email), which you have to print. Only one ticket per household and email address is permitted, and you have to specify which museum you will be visiting, as it will be printed on the ticket.
We are happy to report that the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum are participating in Museum Day Live!
Unfortunately, there are a number of great museums in the region that are not participating, and that concerns us.
By all accounts, Museum Day Live! is a successful program, according to Smithsonian officials, who say it encourages learning and the spread of knowledge nationwide. The event emulates the free-admission policy of all the Smithsonian Institution’s museums in Washington, D.C. and it fulfills Smithsonian Media’s mission to make cultural education accessible to everyone.
In 2011, more than 350,000 museum goers took advantage of this opportunity, and more than 400,000 people are expected to participate in 2012.
Those going to Blue Mountain Lake are in luck, as Museum Day Live! falls on the same day as the Adirondack Museum’s Fall Festival.
As museums continue to struggle financially, some facilities are faced with the possibility of closure, and that reality gets us thinking about the value of museums and why it’s important to support them. Officials at the North Creek Depot Museum, for example, say they could not stay open without the financial support of the town of Johnsburg. The town’s annual subsidy of the museum was recently questioned, and hearts sank among the museum’s managers when faced with the thought of a reduction or elimination of town taxpayer money for operations.
Why even have a museum? Although museums attract tourists and therefore help the local economy, that’s not really why they’re important.
Museums define us. They create a sense of place by interpreting our history. Furthermore, they tell us where we’ve come from and, because most things in life come in cycles, they tell us where we’re going.
Through artifacts, museums tell our story. That connection between the past and the present is educational, yes, but it’s also something we need as human beings. We are social creatures, but we don’t sit around campfires any more handing down stories from generation to generation as our early ancestors did. For the most part, history is no longer communicated through the oral tradition; it is a function of society handled by museums.
For this reason, we’d like to see all museums in the Adirondack region sign up with the Smithsonian as a partner and offer free admission to their museums during the 2013 Museum Day Live!
Although museums will see their proceeds from admission fees fall on Saturday, one day couldn’t possibly hurt their bottom line. It may indeed help, as people spend more money in the gift shops and food counters.
And it’s a great promotional tool. As the Adirondack Museum and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum will undoubtedly find out this year, Museum Day Live! is a great opportunity to get some free publicity.