Museums held steady last year

North American art museum survey shows stability in attendance, revenue

May 07, 2006|By CHARLES STORCH | CHARLES STORCH,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

"Stability" was the term of art last year for North American art museums, as they maintained or built on advances made over the prior two years, according to a new survey.

The New York-based Association of Art Museum Directors said Wednesday that 73 percent of the 129 museums responding to its survey reported steady or increased attendance in 2005. That compared with 70 percent seeing such results in 2004.

The survey also found that 84 percent of respondents said their total revenue had increased or was the same as in the prior previous year, up from 79 percent in 2004.

"This year's survey reminds us what the economic stability that member museums have worked to achieve is all about," said Mimi Gaudieri, the association's executive director.

This is the group's fifth annual, and sixth overall, "state of the art museums" report. The first survey, released in January 2002, tried to gauge the impact of Sept. 11, 2001, terror bombings and the ensuing weakness in the national economy.

Problems persisted at the museums throughout 2002. The full-year survey showed that, for example, 59 percent of respondents experienced a decline in revenue.

Surveys since then have indicated a rebound in nearly all operations and activities. In the latest canvass, 47 percent of respondents said their revenue had increased and 16 percent said it had dropped. In 2004, 49 percent posted an increase, but 21 percent showed a decline.

Among other report results:

Exhibition programming increased at 31 percent of the museums last year, compared with 29 percent in 2004.

Staff levels were increased or maintained at 93 percent of museums, compared with 84 percent in 2004. For those that boosted staff, the average increase was 8 percent last year and 7 percent in 2004.

More museums reported increases in financial support from individuals and foundations in 2005 than in 2004, although fewer last year experienced a rise in corporate giving than in 2004.

Expansions plans were moving forward at 65 percent of the museums in 2005, compared with 62 percent in 2004.

Charles Storch writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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