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Museum attendance stagnant

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Attendance at America’s museums is holding steady at about 600 million visits a year, but museums’ financial status is improving, a new study says.

Published by the American Association of Museums, the “2006 Museum Financial Information” report analyzes 2003-05 statistics from more than 800 museums across the country.

Median attendance has held steady at 34,000 visitors a year since 2000, the study says, with 15 percent of that coming from school visits.

But overall, the study says, museums are in better financial shape now than in 2003, with a third fewer institutions reporting deficits.

That improvement occurred as government support for museums declined to about one in four dollars of operating income, and as private support grew to account for more than one in three dollars of income.

Museum endowments also grew, with almost half crediting new contributions and more than half citing changes in financial markets.

And almost one in four institutions is currently involved in a capital campaign, with a median goal of $10 million.

Fundraising remains critical for museums, given that the median cost of serving a visitor is $23, the study says, compared to a median admission fee of $6.

The median museum has operating expenses of $783,000 and a staff of six fulltime employees, four part-timers and 60 volunteers, the study says.

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