Press Release

2012 Museum Attendance Press Release

Released on Thursday, February 7th, 2013 | Print Release


Institutions work together, reach more people

CHICAGO – Jan. 31, 2013 – Chicago-area museum and zoo attendance grew in 2012, as evidenced by the attendance at 15 affiliated institutions. Combined total attendance at these institutions, which include the City’s major museums, zoos, garden and aquarium, was 15.1 million in 2012, a four percent increase over 2011.

These 15 organizations are affiliated through a public awareness campaign, Museums Work for Chicago, which focuses on the impact of Chicago’s museum community. The group includes Museums In the Park (MIP), a consortium of 11 museums located on Chicago Park District land, and four other institutions in Cook County.

Institutions showing increases in attendance compared to 2011 include: Chicago Children’s Museum (10 percent); Chicago History Museum (9 percent); Chicago Zoological Society/ Brookfield Zoo (8 percent); the Adler Planetarium (4 percent); The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2 percent); and John G. Shedd Aquarium (2 percent).

“At Chicago Children’s Museum, we encourage children and families to be imaginative, creative and innovative,” said museum president and CEO Jennifer Farrington. “From Circus Zirkus to Unboxed: Adventures in Cardboard, our goal is to provide experiences you can’t find anywhere else, and we’re so happy visitors are responding.”

The Adler Planetarium attributes its recent attendance increase to the Grainger Sky Theater, a new state-of-the-art theater. “By providing Adler visitors with thrilling, one-of-a-kind experiences, we excite their minds and engage the public in actively exploring space,” said Michelle B. Larson, Ph.D., new Adler president and CEO. “We are pleased that as people carefully choose how to spend their time, the Adler’s attendance continues to grow.”

The John G. Shedd Aquarium, with nearly 2.17 million visitors, recorded the highest attendance among all aquariums in the United States in 2012.

Chicago-area museums, zoos, garden and aquarium attract visitors and bolster the image of the City. These institutions also support local businesses, provide jobs and job training, and generate tens of millions of dollars in state and local tax revenue, contributing to an economic impact estimated at more than $1 billion annually.


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“Chicago’s vibrant cultural offerings is what sets us apart from other destinations,” said Don Welsh, President and CEO, Choose Chicago. “Our museums and zoos are a true asset to our destination and resonate with the cultural travelers who seek enriching experiences.”

Institutions that welcomed the largest numbers of on-site visitors in 2012 were Lincoln Park Zoo, with an attendance of 3.5 million; Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, with 2.3 million visitors; and John G. Shedd Aquarium, with more than 2.1 million visitors.

Other institutions reporting high attendance numbers in 2012 include the Art Institute of Chicago (more than 1.4 million visitors); Museum of Science and Industry (more than 1.4 million visitors); and Field Museum (more than 1.2 million visitors).

“Our museums expand their reach by partnering with the Chicago Park District, schools, libraries, community centers and youth organizations to bring educational programs into local neighborhoods,” said Gary T. Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum and president of Museums In the Park.

Museums offer a wide variety of educational programs, including after-school programs, hands- on learning labs, specialized curricula, teacher workshops, traveling exhibits and adult education classes. Museums, zoos, gardens and aquariums help young people develop the skills they need to live and work in the 21st century, including a focus on using digital media to help connect their museum experiences to classroom learning. Museums and zoos also provide summer day camp experiences and other programming in partnership with the Chicago Park District.

“Chicago’s Museums In the Park play a crucial role not only with education and tourism for the City of Chicago, but also strengthen the quality of life for our citizens,” said Michael P. Kelly, Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO. “These important cultural institutions continuously contribute to the vitality of our city while enriching our parks.”

“We are proud that a visit to our museums is a visit to the Chicago Park District,” said Johnson.

The Museums In the Park acknowledge the generous support of the Chicago Park District and the people of Chicago. MIP welcomed a new member in 2012, the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, located at 3015 W. Division Street, Chicago.

Museums Work for Chicago was formed to highlight the contributions these 15 institutions make to the region and to raise public awareness of their important economic and educational benefits to the city, region and state.

The 15 Museums Work For Chicago institutions are: Adler Planetarium, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo, DuSable Museum of African American History, The Field Museum, Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, Lincoln Park Zoo, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and John G. Shedd Aquarium.


Media Relations at Museums in the Park