Many would regard 2021 as a year of recovery, and for good reason. The year before, COVID-19 had changed so much about our world—how we lived, how we worked, how we interacted with family and friends. Life still hasn’t returned to what used to be normal, but all the signs suggest that we are emerging from a period of stress and uncertainty for which the only word is the one we can’t help using: unprecedented.
A year of recovery, but also, for us at Carnegie Museums, a year of evolution. Our adaptations to the pandemic have continued to evolve as guidelines have changed in response to changing risks. We continue to develop new ways of welcoming our visitors, supporting teachers and students (in person and virtually), and engaging the many communities we serve.
Answering these efforts, support for our museums from both public and private sources has never been stronger. Visitation, too, has more than rebounded. On many weekends in July and August, we saw crowds equal in size to 2019 levels. Summer campers came back in great numbers, unhindered by the masks they wore to protect each other and their camp leaders. And the fall brought with it an exciting resurgence of new exhibitions: Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants at Carnegie Museum of Natural History; Sharif Bey: Excavations at Carnegie Museum of Art; Pompeii: The Exhibition at Carnegie Science Center; and Marisol and Warhol Take New York at The Andy Warhol Museum.
Perhaps the most hopeful change of the past year was our evolving plan to mark our 125th anniversary year. We decided we would not only celebrate how far we have come, but also dream how far we can go.
Perhaps the most hopeful change of the past year was our evolving plan to mark our 125th anniversary year. We decided we would not only celebrate how far we have come, but also dream how far we can go. In October, we launched new Community Access Memberships, offering free memberships to teens, deeply discounted memberships to families facing economic challenges, and memberships for community-based nonprofits that enable their staff to share free access to the museums by bringing with them up to 10 of the individuals they serve per visit.
We concluded our 125th anniversary year on November 6 and 7 by joining Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in asking the community to “Crash the Carnegies.” Some 8,000 visitors over two days came to our historic Oakland campus, free of charge, to enjoy the festivities, which included on-site performances and activities offered by the four Carnegie Museums, the Library, and 25 cultural partners. As I walked through our corridors, I overheard parents pointing out to their children the wonders of our collections and couples avidly discussing what they wanted to see or do next. Responding to an exit survey, one visitor said the best part was “just simply being there. The essence, as well as the nostalgia!”
It was a fitting end to our year of evolution—a year we could have never negotiated without the support of you, our member community. We trust that you share our excitement about what’s to come over the next 125 years!
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
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