The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that we will be updating our admissions policy on March 1, 2018. I would like to share details of the revised policy, some of the background behind the update, and the reasons why the Museum needs to make this change in order to sustain its mission for future generations and to remain an accessible source of inspiration to all.
With this update, our pay-as-you-wish policy will continue for New York State residents and students from across the tristate region, while visitors from outside New York will be required to pay mandatory admissions; admission for children under 12 will remain free. The Museum will also now honor full-priced admissions tickets for three consecutive days, giving all visitors more time to experience each of The Met's three locations. We anticipate that the mandatory admissions component will affect approximately 31 percent of our annual visitors.
The current approach to admissions has been in place since 1970 and was long overdue for a review. This update follows a thoughtful, in-depth analysis of our admissions policy and was undertaken in close consultation with the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. (The Met Fifth Avenue is on public land and must seek the city's permission to change the admissions policy.) As we studied how best to update our policy, we were mindful that the Museum was founded in the 19th century primarily as an educational entity intended to teach and uplift the diverse populations of New York City. We are still a vital community resource, and each year our educators reach more than 200,000 students. We take enormous pride in our leadership role within the city's cultural landscape, and we are committed to remaining a welcoming place for all the constituent communities of New York.
At the same time, The Met is a profoundly different place from that envisioned by its founders. Decades ago The Met made a decision to expand its operations and outreach and to become the Museum that we know today: a cherished institution that is both the top tourist destination in New York City and a world-renowned center of scholarship and learning.
As it turns out, we have been enormously successful in service to that vision. In the last eight years alone, visitorship has increased by more than forty percent, to seven million visitors across our three locations, and The Met is widely recognized as one of the great museums in the world. We set the global standard for excellence in the scope and depth of our collection, exhibitions and scholarship, education programs, and our many other activities and advocacy initiatives.
Maintaining this level of excellence, and continuing to serve the New York region at the same high level, requires that The Met take stock and decide, once again, what kind of Museum we want to be for future generations. The world has changed dramatically in the almost 50 years since our admissions policy was last reviewed, and the way we budget and plan for the future needs to change as well.
What is clear is that our current pay-as-you-wish policy is no longer sufficient to meet the Museum's daily operational demands. Paid admissions represent only 14 percent of our overall revenue, one of the lowest percentages among our New York City peers. Moreover, in the past 13 years the number of visitors who pay the full suggested admission has declined by 73 percent. We are now the only major museum in the world that relies exclusively on a pure pay-as-you-wish system or that does not receive the majority of its funding from the government.
Throughout The Met's 148-year history we have experimented with a variety of admissions policies, and for the current update we examined a number of different scenarios, including charging separate admissions for exhibitions and offering free Fridays or other nights.
We decided against charging for exhibitions for a number of reasons. First, such a system encourages the Museum to produce "blockbusters," which do not reflect The Met's tradition of embracing exhibitions that combine scholarship with accessibility. Those types of exhibitions are also very expensive and are not a reliable source of revenue that can be either predicted or accounted for in long-range budgeting. More important, charging for exhibitions would hit our New York City visitors hardest, and they are our most loyal supporters. As for free Fridays (or other nights), we believe that the visitor experience would be compromised to an unacceptable degree, with dramatically overcrowded galleries and much longer lines.
As we implement this new policy, we are taking steps to ensure that we minimize disruptions to everyday operations and that we continue to improve the visitor experience. We plan to be as flexible as possible in verifying local residency, and we have been working closely with many partners, including the city's Office of Immigrant Affairs, to develop policies and practices that will be the least burdensome on our visitors. We will also develop an outreach plan across the five boroughs that reaffirms our message: The Met is committed to being an open, welcoming environment for all.
With full-priced tickets now being honored for three consecutive days, we are hopeful that many out-of-state and international visitors will enjoy even more time in our galleries.
The Met made the decision to update its admissions policy because we believe deeply in our mission to serve our global and local audiences at the highest possible level and to fulfill the vision embraced long ago by the Museum's leadership. We are equally determined to pass down to future generations a strong and financially stable institution that is both a world-class center of excellence and a source of community pride. We are confident that this update to our admissions policy is a necessary and reasonable way to support these goals.
Have questions about this policy change? See our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Read a press release about the Museum's updated admissions policy.