Dang Nab It: Why Can’t Museums Be Free?

Steve Johnson notices a trend and asks why it can’t spread to Chicago, where Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” is housed: ‘Around the country, a number of high-profile museums have, in fact, gone from fee to free in (relatively) recent years: The Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art and, just in February, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, announcing the move with this tagline: “For you. For LA. For good.” Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton‘s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., opened as a free museum, with admission sponsored by a Wal-Mart grant. The forthcoming Broad Museum, also in LA, will be free. These institutions join freebies-from-birth such as Lincoln Park Zoo, the Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Going free is not a trend, entirely: The National Building Museum in the nation’s capital recently went back to charging a fee, for example.’

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