November 23, 2004

"Why can't we go to the children's museum, mommy?"

The great Goddess Art, and her grand temples, the Museums, truly do
seem to be for none but the elite these days. Where here in Indianapolis you can enter and enjoy the permanent collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art for nothing but a free-will donation or small nominal fee at the door, at New York's Museum of Modern Art you now must pay the recently increased admission fee of $20 for the permanent exhibit, not to mention the additional admission charges for travelling exhibits. And people just are not happy about it.

We were just discussing a similar situation the other day while driving past the impressive exterior of the Indianapolis Childrens Museum. I said to the Spousal Unit as we sped along on Illinois Street that I was certainly glad that Progeny was sound asleep in the backseat. Had she been awake, she would surely have seen the lifesized dinosaur erupting from the block wall of the Dinosphere, prompting yet another discussion of the current state of our family fiscal health.

True, it's not what you could call an art museum, but it's a great and wonderous place for children and those who are still a child at heart. Science, arts, a fully restored carousel, one of the largest electric train displays compiled, a restored steam locomotive, a full dinosaur ecosphere complete with full sized dinosaurs and a carefully concocted approximation of fresh dino-poop just to bring even your olfactory senses into the experience. At one point there was a limestone cave, at another a fossil dig, and let's not forget the mummy in the ornate case, or the huge hands-on hall of science.

But try to take a family there. Most of us will never be able to afford a membership, so we must pay the retail ticket prices. Currently those are $11.50 for an adult, $10.50 if you are a senior citizen, and $6.50 for a child between 2 yrs old and 17 yrs old. This will get you into the museum and get you access to the bulk of the exhibits. So now we're at $30.50, and all we've done is walk in the door.

But say your child has seen the lifesized dinosaurs in the Dinosphere and just HAS to have one to take home. Well, of course there's the museum gift shop. I suppose you could get her a t-shirt with the dinosaur parade embellishment on the front. It's only $19.95, since you're not a member. We're now at $50.45, and all we have are three ticket stubs and a t-shirt.

Walking has made you all hungry, and Progeny is getting a bit cranky from lack of sustenance. Well, they have a food court complete with Starbucks and McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Charleston Market (think Boston Market), and a deli. When last the Spousal unit went, a small spinach salad cost him $8.00, and we all know how expensive Starbucks can be.

So, let's estimate that it takes another $5.00 per person to eat. We're now talking $65.45, and that's only if don't end up with one of Progeny's playmates along, manage to keep impulse buying to a minimum, and keep everyone on the McDonalds value menu.

How many families, particularly those with more than one child, can truly afford to spend that much money on a one day experience with any sort of frequency? I can tell you the last time I was in the Children's Museum with my daughter: Progeny was still in a stroller. Big Sis was in high school.

So it isn't just Art that seems to be only for the elite sometimes. Even what should be so simple a pleasure as watching your child experience new and wonderous things in a fantastic place can seem a rather elitist thing as well.

Posted by Mamamontezz at November 23, 2004 01:00 PM

The liberal shakedown mechanism at work, take that which was originally set up and funded by taxpayer money for and intended everyone's benefit and charge them an access fee (and keep on taxing). I'd be willing to bet it started out as a fee to "protect" the museum assets and mushroomed into a full blown bureaucracy with directors, curators, administrators and interpreters all from the halls of Academia. Once they feed on the trough they're always on the trough.

Posted by: Jack at November 23, 2004 01:52 PM

Uh, Jack, take a look at TCM's history page:

"The 1920s saw the concept of a museum especially for children introduced to Indianapolis. In 1924, Mrs. John N. Carey, an active participant in Indianapolis civic affairs, visited the Brooklyn Children's Museum and returned to Indianapolis determined that the youngsters of her city soon would have a museum of their own. Her enthusiasm drew three other civic-minded women to the cause, and with the help of children who contributed treasures belonging to their parents and grandparents, The Children's Museum was founded in 1925."

Not originally set up with taxpayer funds, but private money. And as conservative government policies cut more and more out of their budgets for educational programs, the cost is going to keep going up. Of course there's a bureaucracy, how else do you expect a labor-intensive $20 million organization to be run? Of course some of the staff are educated beyond high school -- Would you rather recruit the staff from McDonald's?

Most organizations such as this try to stay away as much as possible from governement funds because it comes with way too many strings attatched.

As long as you're making blanket generalizations, let me make one: not-for-profit organizations are more tightly run than most for-profit corporations. They have to be. "Liberal shakedown" my ass.

Posted by: Hugh at November 23, 2004 02:29 PM

Why thank you Hugh, Your response says that you are part of the organization and that you are a true believer in the liberal cause. What started out privately ended up being forced into the public sector largely due to taxation or if it's still private it's an organization that is taxpayer subsidized by tax exemption through it's non-profit classsification, it got that status from liberal taxation policies. Either way it enjoys profits not allowed by contemporary businesses. Few organizations are exempt from taxation and those that are typically have a 20% to 30% overhead for administration costs, from what I've read about the museum it has had tremendous expansion $74 Millon since 1996 alone, quite an investment, to make it a more of an attraction, now the visitors have to pick up that tab. Let's give Disneyland and Epcott center tax exempt status too, so they can afford to expand, they perform public services by entertaining children also. All of us would like an exemption whenever we spend more than we make and have it excluded from taxation.

Posted by: Jack at November 23, 2004 07:13 PM

It's the same thing here in OKC in the museums and the zoo too. It sucks.

Posted by: ElizabethM at November 23, 2004 08:03 PM

While all of it is sad and true, what the devil shouldwe do about it?

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