Museum attendance on the mend

John Roybal holds his two-year-old son, Ezekiel Roybal, as they look at a live lungfish at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, NM on Friday. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The arts in New Mexico remain a driving economic factor.

New Mexico’s eight state-run museums and seven historic sites generated $2.8 million in revenue in fiscal year 2022, nearly the $3 million generated before the 2019 pandemic.

“We are thrilled to see a rapid increase in attendance and agency revenue over the past year,” said Debra Garcia y Griego, Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.

In fiscal year 2022, 636,177 people visited state-run attractions, more than four times what they were in fiscal year 2021, when the pandemic shuttered museums for eight months. The number of visitors totaled only 149,316 that year. The number was 617,407 in 2020, when the sites were closed for four months.

Attendance has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels — a total of 992,574 people visited the state’s cultural sites in fiscal year 2019. But attendance is coming back, said Daniel Zillmann, Door -speaker of Cultural Affairs.

Eric Edwards, an observatory volunteer at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, observes solar flares through a telescope on Friday. (Chancey Bush/Newspaper)

And Garcia y Griego noted that Cultural Affairs employees have provided innovative programs for new Mexicans during the pandemic.

“Serving the people of New Mexico through stewardship of our state’s cultural resources is central to our mission,” she said. “Our staff are proven innovators of programs that span across the state through exhibits, engaging educational activities, virtual programs, and the distribution of hands-on activity kits and books.”

She also noted that social media and the number of engagements have also increased.

During the pandemic, when museums and sites were closed to the public, every museum took to social media to create engagement inside and outside the state.

According to FY2022 data, there was a 7.4% increase across the department with 398,271 impressions.

In terms of visitors, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science remains the most visited museum in the state with 198,347 visitors last fiscal year. That’s down from the pre-pandemic 2019 fiscal year, when 293,817 people visited the museum. The Santa Fe International Folk Art Museum is the second most visited museum with 71,595 visitors, and the Alamogordo New Mexico Space History Museum is third with 69,472 visitors.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center was No. 7 on the list relative to the second most visited museum in fiscal year 2019. In fiscal year 2022, it welcomed 36,433 visitors. The NHCC, like some other state-run entities, saw a change in its leadership during this period.

“We hope that every New Mexican will find the opportunity to visit our museums and historic sites – for inspiration, recreation and learning,” Garcia y Griego said.

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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