Cultural museums are clearly important to prominent cities.
As a city with a population of 5.3 million, Singapore's museums attract more than 6.5 million visitors. Singapore's National Heritage Board surveyed visitors to Singapore's national museums and found that 37 percent come from overseas, and 11 percent of those are repeat visitors. Singapore Tourism Board director of attractions, Jeanie Lim said, "Museums mirror the growth of our city and present to the world various aspects of the Singapore story."
High quality cultural museums are important to cities of any size. Though it is small and only ranks fourth in its state, Santa Fe is an important city in the southwestern United States and the capital of New Mexico. With the addition of a new unit to the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe (a city with a population under 70,000), annual visitors to the museum units will exceed four times the city's population.
"Museum Visitation as a Leisure Time Choice"
Museum visitation appears to hold up well when compared to all leisure activities. In studying a number of comprehensive reports, including "Museum Visitation as a Leisure Time Choice: A Background Report to the Smithsonian Board of Regents" (October 2007), which includes data on leisure activities collected for the National Endowment for the Arts in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Census, museum visitation has remained fairly constant over the past several decades. Much of the data tracks visits to art museums and galleries, as well as historic sites. Additional evidence shows that visitation of museums covering natural sciences and social sciences has not only remained constant, but has risen steadily in many cases. Several of the most prominent museums (including the Houston Museum of Natural Science) have faced the challenge of too many visitors and the need to expand to accommodate rising visitation.
It is important to consider all of the leisure activities surveyed in order to understand the full dynamics involved in bringing audiences to museums. Of course, while many leisure interests are complimentary in growing interests in museums, the steady rise in use of the Internet, home computers and video games has to be considered in positive and negative terms as it relates to museums, and more broadly, to quality of life. Where those interests are negative, museums are a preferred, more productive and socially-beneficial leisure activity. Since these are extremely complex dynamics that change rapidly, they are better covered in live presentations.
Motivations for Visiting Art Museums and Galleries
Although the following survey focused on art museums and galleries, it provides highly relevant information for broad cultural institutions. An Urban Institute study conducted in 2005 identified seven general motivations for visits to art museums and galleries.
Educational: learning and gaining knowledge (65 percent)
Aesthetic: seeing high-quality art (56 percent)
Affective: having an emotionally rewarding experience (54 percent)
Social: spending time with friends and family (45 percent)
Civic: supporting a community organization (27 percent)
Economic: low cost (24 percent)
Cultural pride: celebrating cultural heritage (18 percent)
Report on Visitors to International Museums
Introduction: International Museum Visitors
Significant International Museums
Examples of Prominent Museums of Culture
Visitors to Top Three Museums in Prominent Cities
Visitors to Major Houston Museums
Major Sports Attendance Compared with HMNS
Sports Attendance Compared with Museums