Press Release

2008 Museum Attendance Press Release

Released on Saturday, January 10th, 2009 | Print Release


For more information, contact: Rebecca Schejbal, 312-447-0460


Museums Report Only a Slight Decrease Even in Difficult Economic Times

CHICAGO (January 27, 2008) – With a combined attendance of nearly 7.7 million, Chicago’s 10 world-class cultural attractions known as the Museums In the Park (MIP) report only a minor decrease in 2008 attendance – down only 1 percent from 7.8 million in 2007.  The John G. Shedd Aquarium maintains its position in the top spot with nearly 1.9 million visitors, followed by Museum of Science and Industry at 1.4 million and The Art Institute at nearly 1.4 million.

“When you look at what people are facing in a difficult economy, it is a relief to see that support for Chicago’s museums still remains strong.  When adults and families are reviewing their budgets, they are still appreciating the value they get when they visit Chicago’s rich cultural treasures.  Few cities in the world have such a diverse array of educational offerings.  The experiences people have when they visit one of these great attractions create memories that will last a lifetime,” said Chicago History Museum President and MIP President Gary T. Johnson.

Showing a tremendous increase in overall attendance this year was the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at 300,000 up 46% from 2007.  The museum attributes much of its increase to the popular exhibition Lawn Nation. The second largest attendance increase was by the Chicago History Museum which was at 266,000 up 32% from 2007.  Having a major impact on its attendance was the critically-acclaimed fashion exhibition Chic Chicago.  The Museum of Science and Industry was down 15% which is attributed to having three major temporary exhibits in 2007, including Body Worlds II and Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination.  The Adler Planetarium, Art Institute, DuSable Museum, Field Museum and National Museum of Mexican Art all had notable increases in attendance in 2008.

“It is great to see such significant increases in some of the mid-sized museums.  It shows that local visitors are taking time to experience all that Chicago has to offer,” said Johnson.

For the third year in a row, school group attendance figures are on the rise.  In 2008, more than 1.16 school children visited a MIP museum – up by 2% from 2007.  Free-day visitation has also shown a significant gain – up 15% in 2008, with more than one million visitors taking advantage of the MIP free-day programs.

“The museums have worked hard to remain accessible by promoting their free day programs and by doing additional outreach to increase school group visitation,” said Johnson.  “Over the years, the 10 museums have developed strong partnerships with the Chicago Public Schools and have helped the schools to use the museum resources as part of their curriculum,” he added.

The MIP museums will be hosting a variety of new programs and exhibitions in 2009.  The Art Institute will be unveiling its highly anticipated new modern wing, Shedd will reopen The Oceanarium, its popular marine mammal pavilion, and the Museum of Science and Industry will be hosting the world premier Harry Potter: The Exhibition in the spring.  See below for a complete list.

“Each museum’s schedule of exhibitions and events in 2009 is worth seeing and experiencing first-hand.  Staying in Chicago and exploring the museums is a cost-effective way to spend time with family and friends,” said Johnson.

2009 Museums In the Park Offerings

The Adler Planetarium will present new space and 3-D shows and a major new exhibition to celebrate the 2009 International Year of Astronomy which kicks-off in March.

The Art Institute of Chicago opens The Modern Wing on May 16.

In February, the Chicago History Museum will kick off the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial celebration with a year’s worth of special events and exhibitions.

In May, the Museum of Contemporary Art presents the first U.S. full-scale survey of the work of Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson in the exhibition Take your time: Olafur Eliasson.

The Museum of Science and Industry will host the world premiere of Harry Potter: The Exhibition which opens in April.

The DuSable Museum of African American History will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the DuSable Museum Arts and Crafts Festival in July.

The National Museum of Mexican Art will continue its new show Miradas: Mexican Art from the Bank of America Collection, which opened on January 23.

In February, The Field Museum will unveil a treasure trove in the new exhibition Real Pirates: The Untold Story of Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship.

Outdoor elements from the popular Lawn Nation will return at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum this summer.

The Oceanarium, the John G. Shedd Aquarium’s popular marine mammal pavilion and home to dolphins, whales, sea lions, sea otters, penguins and more, will reopen in early summer 2009.

About Museums In the Park

MIP is an association of Chicago museums located on Chicago Park District property.  MIP members are the Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, DuSable Museum of African American History, The Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium.

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Media Relations at Museums in the Park