Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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Attendance on the Rise


By Danielle Scherer


The numbers say it all: Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is reaching more people than ever 


Over the past decade, attendance at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh has nearly doubled, due in large part to the addition of Carnegie Science Center in 1991 and The Andy Warhol Museum in 1994.  The face of Carnegie Museums is very different than it was 10 years ago; indeed, Carnegie Museums is now a composite of four distinctive museums and their diverse audiences. 


However, even after the initial surge prompted by the two new North Shore museums, attendance has continued to rise each and every year for the past five years at Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. 


In the year 2000 alone, 966,032,000 people—groups, families, and individuals—walked through the museums’ doors.  An additional 652,847,000 people were served by the museums through its formal outreach programs.  That amounts to more than 1.6 million people, about 57,000 more than in the year 1999 and the most ever in the museums’ 106-year history.   These figures are especially impressive considering that the federal government’s 2000 census reported that the population of Allegheny County—home to about half of the museums’ visitors—declined by 4 percent over the past 10 years.


“We are delighted by these numbers,” says Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh President Ellsworth H. Brown.  “Our vision is to set the national standard for integration into the communities we serve, for our mutual advancement, and we believe that the steady rise in attendance [EHB1] indicates that we are on the right track towards achieving this goal. 


“We continue to learn more about our audiences through research,” Brown adds, “and we are committed to using this knowledge to improve our visitors’ experiences and encourage more visitation through creative exhibitions, education programs, and special events.”


Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which share the Oakland facility, have seen steady growth in onsite admissions.  A large portion of the increase was due to the museums’ “blockbuster” exhibitions that appealed to broader and more diverse audiences, such as the Carnegie International, Aluminum by Design, T. rex on Trial, Light! and AFRICA.  These exhibitions were of international importance as well as of strong local interest.  Like Hollywood “blockbusters,” they not only attracted new audiences, but also stimulated repeat visits to the museums.  The blockbusters also helped the museums fulfill their missions to present exhibitions that all people can enjoy.


These big shows garnered record attendance numbers at the Oakland facility.  For example, during the 16-week run of Light!—which overlapped for a few weeks with Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s well-attended AFRICA! exhibit—the Oakland facility set a new record of about 9,400 people for weekly attendance.  That is about 1,800 more people than entered the facility each week during Aluminum by Design’s 16-week run and about 2,100 more per week than during the 1999/2000 Carnegie International’s 20-week run.


Blockbuster exhibitions, however, are just part of the reason for increased attendance at Carnegie Museums.  The shared vision of integration into their communities has inspired the museums to fine-tune education programs to meet the special needs of particular audiences in the region, including children, people with disabilities, older adults, and economically disadvantaged people. 


As a result, all four museums have increased participation in their education programs, especially in offsite or outreach programs in which museum personnel visit people in hospitals, libraries, schools, and community centers.  These programs include Carnegie Museum of Art’s Stories in Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Museum on the Move and Senior EXPRESS, and Carnegie Science Center’s Science in Your Neighborhood.  Taking the museums’ collections and exhibits directly to people in their communities is one of the ways that Carnegie Museums has endeavored to reach more diverse audiences. 


In addition, the museums have witnessed a dramatic 80 percent rise in attendance through special events.  Attendance at museum-sponsored events such as the Museum of Art’s Antiques Show, the Museum of Natural History’s Powwow and Gem & Mineral Show, the Science Center’s Science Festival and On Tap @ Carnegie Science Center, and The Warhol’s Carpatho-Rusyn Event, has contributed to this increase.  Most of these annual happenings were launched within the past five years and have grown to become popular events on the region’s social calendar.


A significant portion of the increase in attendance at special events has come from rentals of museum facilities for privately hosted functions.  Carnegie Museums’ three architecturally distinctive facilities, which house four museums, are valuable community assets.  Over the past decade, the museums have capitalized on their great spaces by renting them for weddings, parties, dinners, and conferences.


At the same time, Carnegie Museums has been improving its restaurants and stores to ensure that the increasing numbers of visitors fully enjoy their experiences. The Oakland facility’s Carnegie Café, Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Fossil Fuels, and Carnegie Science Center’s River View Café were renovated.  In partnership with Parkhurst Dining Services, the eateries introduced new menus and better marketing techniques.  These improvements resulted in a 40 percent increase in sales at the restaurants since 1996.  Coupled with the catering for private parties, the food service program generates income for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s general operating support.


According to Ellsworth Brown, “This steady upswing in attendance, while a strong indicator that we have been doing something right, only encourages us to continue looking for new ways to make our museums even more vital parts of the communities we serve.”





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