Martinsville Bulletin: Museum trustees want to increase attendance and visibility

Martinsville Bulletin: Museum trustees want to increase attendance and visibility

May 20, 2017

MARTINSVILLE–How do you attract more people to the Virginia Museum of Natural History? The Board of Trustees wants to answer that question, while also increasing its visibility statewide.

Visitation figures presented to its Board of Trustees on Saturday show that so far in the fiscal year that began last July 1, the museum has had 156,488 visitors, up from 153,346 for the entire previous year.

At 134,481, however, the vast majority of visitors so far in fiscal 2017 have been ones who saw exhibits that the museum has elsewhere in Virginia, such as state parks, said Deputy Director Ryan Barber. That number is up from 127,332 during the past financial year, statistics show.

 Only 22,007 people actually have visited the museum so far in the current fiscal year. The number for all of fiscal 2016 was 26,014. Barber said he believes part of the lower figure so far in fiscal 2017 is that the museum did not hold its popular annual Dino Day festival in January. The festival, which will become a two-day event, was rescheduled for July 21-22 this year so warmer weather can accommodate outdoor exhibits and, hopefully, increase attendance, he said.

Still, he said he anticipates the 22,007 figure to climb sharply through the rest of May and in June.

Figures show that among museum visitors, both on Starling Avenue and at off-site exhibits, 36 percent are adults, 27 percent are youth ages 3 to 18, 15 percent are seniors and college students and 1 percent are children under three years of age. The other 21 percent are people with VMNH memberships, whom the museum counts separately.

Martinsville-Henry County residents comprise 40 percent of museum visitors, statistics show, while 11 percent come from Danville-Pittsylvania County, 31 percent come from other places across Virginia, 11 percent come from nearby areas in North Carolina and 7 percent come from outside the two states.

Many state-run museums are in capital cities or metropolitan areas. VMNH, founded in Martinsville in the 1980s as a private institution before the state took it over, is an exception.


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