(Picture credit: Metropolitan Museum metmuseum.org) Updated 7/1 - see bottom of the page. I've written a few posts on revenue management in museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum, in the past (here, here and here), so it shouldn't come as a surprise that today's post will be on two recent developments at New York City's premier museum:
- the Metropolitan Museum will be open seven days a week starting this Monday (July 1),
- it is getting rid of its colorful, distinctive metal admission tags to favor instead those cheap, low-key "removable" admission stickers that I stopped putting on my clothes a long time ago, for good reason.
I'm very happy with the first decision, which has long struck me as an anachronism. The museum started its policy of closing on Monday in 1971 to save money (see this New York Times article for more details), but it had become hard to believe that the argument for Monday closings still held - and more opportunities to visit the museum mean a more enjoyable experience for museum-goers as well, given the sharp growth in tourism the city has witnessed over the past few years.
(From the NYT article, dated September 2012: "tourism to New York City
has grown 16.2 percent in the last five years, to nearly 51 million
visitors in 2011 from 43.8 million in 2006. The Met’s attendance has been rising too, to a record-breaking 6.3
million visitors in the fiscal year that ended in June, about 600,000
more than the year before.")
Deciding whether opening Mondays was cost-effective must have involved quite a few mathematical calculations, from the number of additional staff members needed to the revenue generated by tourists who'd pay the suggested admission price, buy souvenirs at the bookstore/gift shop or eat a bite at the various restaurants and coffee shops.
Other museums' practices must also have played an important role in discussions: the National Gallery of Art in DC and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston are open every day, as well as the Prado in Madrid and major London institutions such as the National Gallery and the Tate Modern.
Two weeks after this NYT article ran (in September of last year), another NYT article announced that the Museum of Modern Art - which had already opened every day for the past two summers, pioneering the trend in New York long before the Metropolitan Museum - would open seven days a week starting this May, beating the Met to a permanent seven-days-a-week schedule by a few weeks.
The other newsworthy item this week, as far as revenue management and the Metropolitan Museum are concerned, is the museum's decision to stop using colorful metal admissions tags and replace them instead by removable stickers. The argument given in the NYT article is one of cost, which is hard to believe. We're talking about small tags in tin metal here, and according to Charity Navigator, the Met had excess funds this year (revenue minus cost) of almost $125 million, as well as assets totaling almost $3 billion. I think they can afford paying for metal admission tags. Replacing them by cheap stickers devalues the Met brand.
More of an issue, though, might have been people asking strangers to give them their metal admission tags (this happened to me once as I was in the main hall leaving the museum - a removable sticker wouldn't adhere as well to the clothes the second time around, so might serve as a deterrent for ignorant cheapskates, unaware the $25 price tag is simply recommended). I've also always wondered whether some visitors kept their old admission tags and observed people exiting the museum to figure out which color they should sport on their lapel this time around. The removable sticker does help in the case of visitors who want to exit the museum and re-enter the same day.
Anyway, surely there could have been a middle ground between the distinctive metal admission tags and the cheap, awful "removable" sticker that always takes with them some threads of people's clothings. MoMA, again at the forefront, scans bar-coded member cards and admission tickets at the entrance of the collections. This gives the museum much better attendance data than the Met and removes the need to wear tags or stickers - certainly a more forward-thinking practice than its uptown neighbor has come up with.
Update 7/1: The New York Times ran yet another article about the schedule change at the Met on the first Monday it was opened. It has some interesting insights about the logistics involved. For instance, 45 new security and admissions employees were hired and the museum will now be open half an hour later, at 10am rather than 9:30am, so that crews can move artwork (which was previously done on Mondays and involves having expensive paintings go through public areas).