Quick Note: Museum Membership

One of my recent posts was all about discounts on admission and mentioned the North American Reciprocal Museum Association, which gives you access to over 800 institutions just by buying a membership at one of them, preferably wherever you can get the best deal.

The Harn Museum at the University of Florida now offers free admission- which includes NARM, ROAM, and CUAM access. THAT MEANS HUNDREDS OF MUSEUMS FOR FREE! Check it out here.  Essentially a digital membership card is free, you can support the museum separately, and the reciprocal benefits were provided by a donor.


Some Admission Discounts

So my last post was about how museums can increase accessibility, from the perspective of a museum. Today I am going to detail a few ways to get good deals on admission as a visitor. While I live in Florida, some other places are included, as well as tips on how to find programs.

Reciprocal Memberships

One of my best purchases was a student membership at the Orlando Museum of Art because 1) I love visiting, and 2) they are a SERM member. SERM is the Southeastern Reciprocal Membership program; this means that with my Orlando Museum of Art membership, I can get into lots of other museums in the region for free! Just in Tampa, there’s the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, the Henry B. Plant Museum, the Tampa Bay History Center, and the Tampa Museum of Art. Lots more museums in Florida, as well as Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, plus a couple other museums, are on the list. That’s a ton! Be sure to look around at what is available and where you can get the cheapest membership. For example, the Tampa Museum of Art offers an individual membership for $50, but instead I bought a membership from the Orlando Museum of Art when student passes were on sale for $20.

NARM is the same thing but throughout North America. There are 842 institutions associated with this, and generally you’ll have to buy a more expensive membership such as a family pass or a higher supporter level. You can check out a map of NARM members here.

I’ve also found a Smithsonian Affiliate reciprocal program, and another reciprocal group called ROAM.

Teen and Student Deals

So many museums give discounted admission to teenagers and college students! It varies; for some huge museums where admission is already $25+, it may only be a couple dollars off with a student ID. Other museums, especially art museums from what I’ve seen, may give very cheap or free tickets. Always check.

There are also programs designed specifically to give teens more access to cultural events. When I was researching my last post, I found TeenTix in Seattle, Washington. It’s an organization where 13 to 19 year olds can get “a free pass that gets you in to movies, music, theatre, dance, visual art, and more for just $5.” The range of events you can go to is really impressive. My family is actually going on a trip to Seattle soon and the EMP Museum looks absolutely incredible but was going to be over $100 for my family of four to visit. Amazingly, my brother and I can both get TeenTix (you don’t have to be from Washington) and get $5 admission. On Thursdays you can also bring someone with you for $5, so now my whole family will be visiting for $20, save an exhibit upcharge. This is a great deal and a great program that I hope residents take full advantage of by seeing lots of theatre and going to lots of museums!

Kids and Family

In my previous post I mentioned that some libraries provide family museum passes which is an awesome resource. Chicago , Miami-Dade county, and Seattle were what I came across, but I’d encourage looking up your own city or county library system as well.

If there is a single museum or aquarium your family really likes to visit, definitely consider a membership or annual pass. In many cases these cost a little more than just two trips. Keep an eye out for summer deals, too; the Glazer Children’s Museum, for example, offers an unlimited admission package for the summer months that is only $49. For just one visit, tickets for a family of four usually come out to $49, but this is unlimited membership!

And again, NARM is often included when you purchase a family-level membership.

Other Discounts

Bank of America cardholders get free admission on the first weekend of the month at lots of institutions.

Groupon sometimes has museum admission; I more often see zoo or aquarium deals. My family once went to a special nighttime event at a zoo for half-price with Groupon tickets.

Look for discount days at your favorite museums. Many have deals such as free admission one Friday a month, $5 on Mondays, etc. This is how I went to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg; they have $10 admission when open late on Thursdays. Free Museum Day is a site that will show you similar deals for some cities.

At the Very Least…

Visit free museums! While some cities are known for having lots of free institutions, like Washington DC, and others have many just by virtue of being packed with museums, like New York City, others may require some digging. I could not find a singular list of all free museums, but a google search for “[your city or state] + free museums” will reveal some. Many museums may be free thanks to sponsors, only charge donations, or are public because they’re affiliated with a university.


There are lots of great art and history museums, science centers, aquariums, and more to see! Find some local deals or get a reciprocal museum pass and go check them out!





Museum Accessibility

From Princess Ennigaldi-Nanna’s curated artifacts in her palace home to the wunderkammer tradition of Renaissance, museums historically began as private collections. While museums today state a mission of public education, they still sometimes fall short on accessibility. For many people, barriers such as expensive admission, lack of information, or physical ability stand in the way of visiting these institutions. I absolutely love museums, and for everyone to be able to experience them and love them as I do, we must create more programs to expand accessibility.

Cool Culture was established to help give the 50% of kids in New York City who come from low-income families access to the wide range of museums from an early age. They provide 50,000 families a year with free admission to ninety cultural institutions. Through the program, Title 1 schools in the city can give preschool and kindergarten students a Family Pass and have a staff member go through workshops to learn how best to implement the program. Families in Chicago, Illinois and Miami-Dade County in Florida, can also check out museum passes from the public library, giving free access to lots of museums in multiple disciplines. While Cool Culture is a nonprofit and the libraries are public institutions, both are helping families visit more museums and enrich their children’s education.

Notably, the Canada Council for the Arts  recently began subsidizing cultural institutions to provide free admission to Syrian refugees, and special activities seek to get children involved. This not only expands access, it is an excellent program in that it targets a group who lacks information and helps them connect to their new community during a time of immense change and difficult assimilation.

Museums themselves can also take action to make visits attainable. For example, the Boston Museum of Science gives free admission to EBT and WIC cardholders, as well as nonprofit organizations. Other museums may do discounted days once a month. Museums that do not charge admission can consider creating partnerships to pay for field trip transportation from schools in underserved communities, or uild mobile science labs.

For some people, the museum environment itself can be a barrier. Children with autism may find it over-stimulating, but special sensory-friendly programs where the building is open early, quieter, and dimmer can provide an inclusive and comfortable experience. Additionally, all institutions should ensure that wheelchairs can easily access all reaches of the facility, create Braille guides, and seek out other accommodations to develop. Perhaps more museums could even invest in the technology of telepresence robots, a new development which can allow people remote access to museum collections. This is a resource that Henry Evans, creator of Robots for Humanity, says “will be the next great democratization of culture.”

I love museums, and I want everyone to be able to benefit from the magic that is having science, history, and art become interesting and personal and alive before your own eyes. To do so, museums need to constantly evaluate what barriers stand in the way of potential guests experiencing that magic, and create solutions to provide access.


(This post is based on an essay I wrote for an application, with some changes, as well as sources and links added.)