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For Immediate Release: June 14, 2011
Media Contact: Marketing and Communication Department

The National Building Museum Announces It Will Charge Admission For Its Exhibitions

Washington, D.C.– National Building Museum executive director Chase W. Rynd today announced a change to the Museum’s policy regarding admission, which has been free since its opening in 1985 as a private, non-profit institution. Starting Monday, June 27, 2011, the Museum will charge admission for entry to its exhibitions. Public access to the Great Hall, Museum Shop, and cafe in the Museum’s landmark historic building will continue to be free, as will the Museum’s docent-led historic building tours. The Museum’s three annual family festivals‒Discover Engineering Family Day, the National Cherry Blossom Family Festival, and the Big Build‒will remain free to all.

The charge will be $8 for adults and $5 for youth (ages three through 17), students with ID, and seniors (age 65 and over); Museum members and children age two and under will be free. Active-duty military personnel and their families will enjoy free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For those families that only wish access to the Building Zone, the Museum’s hands-on building gallery designed for children two to six, the fee will be $3 for each adult and child (free for members).

“Over the past few years, the recession has been particularly devastating for the culture and arts community, as well as the building and design industry,” wrote Mr. Rynd in a note to staff. “The many people who have deep affinity for the National Building Museum understand all too well, therefore, that this institution has been greatly impacted by the economic crisis.” 

Mr. Rynd continued, “Around the world and in our backyards, the landscape for nonprofit organizations has shifted dramatically.  Those who wait too long to realize this truth or dismiss it entirely are likely to become casualties of the era. Under no circumstances will we allow this to be the fate of the National Building Museum."

The Museum is among the last of the area’s major private, non-profit museums to begin charging admission. Hillwood Estate and Gardens charges $15 for adult admission. The Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Kreeger Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Phillips Collection, and the Woodrow Wilson House all charge $10 for adults. The Textile Museum charges a suggested $8 for adult admission.

The Museum instituted its first exhibition charge in July 2010 for the exhibition LEGO® Architecture: Towering Ambition, which is still open. Through April 30, 2011, 130,000 visitors have seen this exhibition, our first with an admission charge ($5 per person). The exhibition features 15 world-famous buildings such as the Empire State Building made entirely of LEGO® bricks and an area for visitors of all ages to build with hundreds of thousands of LEGO® pieces.

Frequent visitors will find even more value in Museum memberships, which include free exhibition admission and discounts at the Museum Shop, among other member benefits. General membership is $50 for an individual, $70 for a couple, and $80 for a family. Students have a rate of $30 and seniors $40. The Museum also offers corporate and association memberships. Families who spend a lot of time in the child-friendly gallery the Building Zone may now find family memberships especially valuable.

“It is time to reexamine how we maintain our mission and our commitment to the public good, and to discover new resources, new practices, and even new skills that enable us to become a thriving museum for the future,” Mr. Rynd explained.

The Museum announced a number of steps in order to ensure continued access to the Museum for audiences of all incomes. Title I schools will continue to have free access to the Museum’s school programs. (To qualify as a Title I school, a school typically has around 40% or more of its students come from families who qualify under the U.S. Census definition as low-income.) The Museum will also continue its multi-faceted partnership with the United Planning Organization, a local non-profit that plans and implements social services for the D.C. metro area. The Museum, in one aspect of the relationship, raises money for scholarships to its summer camp for 3rd-5th graders associated with the United Planning Organization.

Mr. Rynd added, “We will certainly look for opportunities in the future to ensure that the admission fee does not serve as a barrier to those who cannot otherwise afford it. There is much to be proud of here and much to support. Now we need to turn to our audiences and ask for that support.”

The National Building Museum is America’s leading cultural institution dedicated to advancing the quality of the built environment by educating people about its impact on their lives. Through its exhibitions, educational programs, online content, and publications, the Museum has become a vital forum for the exchange of ideas and information about the world we build for ourselves. Public inquiries: 202.272.2448 or visit www.nbm.org. Connect with us on Twitter: @BuildingMuseum and Facebook.

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