Museum admission hike: Why it's not bad news
After a proposed admission increase, the Adler Planetarium would still charge visitors less than the cost of a movie ticket. But earlier this week, the planetarium shelved a proposed fee hike. This decision came after vocal Alderman Ed Burke raised questions about the Chicago Park District board's "rubber stamping" a proposal calling to raise Adler admission from $8 to $10 and from $5 to $7 for kids.
At one time I would have agreed with Burke. Until I did some research. A few years ago, I interviewed the Museum of Science and Industry's finance veep who pointed to skyrocketing utilities costs. I spoke with a rep for the Shedd Aquarium (the most expensive Chicago museum) who said admission price matches the cost of the animal care—the aquarium's top priority. I watched as the Art Institute of Chicago—a free museum for kids—unleashed a "rolling blackouts" policy to save money.
And I decided this: The theory that museums should be unrealistically cheap, it teaches people—especially kids—that culture is cheap. But it's not. Dolphins, Picassos, furthering our knowledge of the moon—it costs money. Moreover, a museum should belong to the people, but if the people don't pay, let's face it: The museum belongs to deep-pocketed donors who can use institutions as an opportunity to manipulate history. That very real threat scares me.
At a time when private colleges cost around $27,000 a year, I think we can pony up a couple bucks for a learning experience at the Adler Planetarium. Those who disagree are in luck: All museums on Chicago Park District offer 52 free days a year.