Smithsonian’s Annual Museum Day

Strategy: Collaborate in New Ways, Emphasize Value, Focus on Customer Potential, Serve Local Community, Take Advantage of Tech

Type of attraction: Museum/Historic Site

Summary: Each September since 2004, Smithsonian Magazine has coordinated a “Museum Day” offering free admission for two adults at participating museums across the country. This event has grown from a few hundred museums in 2004 to 1,300 museums in 2009.

Each September since 2004, Smithsonian Magazine has coordinated a “Museum Day” offering free admission for two adults at participating museums across the country.   This event has grown from a few hundred museums in 2004 to 1,300 museums representing all 50 states in 2009. 

For the first four years a Museum Day admission card was inserted into Smithsonian magazine, but starting in 2008 the printed admission card was replaced with an online version that can be downloaded from the Museum Day section of Smithsonian.com.  “We saw a huge increase in the number of people downloading the online admission card in 2009,” reports Rosie Walker, associate publisher for Smithsonian Media. “300,000 participated in Museum Day in 2009 by downloading the admission card, double the attendance from 2008.” 

Walker attributes this increase to an aggressive push to increase the number of participating museums and increased use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to promote the event.   “Online outreach has provided a cost effective way to promote this event in the economic downturn, and we’ve seen an increase in the number of museums who are feeling the impacts of the downturn and are looking for new ways to collaborate—and see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the Smithsonian brand promotional power,” Walker says. She also notes the Smithsonian’s positive feedback in 2008 and 2009 from Museum Day participants who were especially grateful for the free admission offer in difficult economic times.

While the free admission offer is only available on Museum Day, the event offers year-round promotional opportunities for participating museums.  The Museum Day section of the Smithsonian.com website has descriptions of all participating museums, and upcoming exhibits or podcasts can be promoted on the website as well.  Daily updates are sent out via a Twitter feed, and the website includes a dedicated website library for museum podcasts.  Special features in the June/July and September issues of Smithsonian magazine help drive traffic to the Museum Day website. 

 

In addition, participating museums can have one-time use of a database of up to 5,000 targeted names from the Smithsonian’s list of contacts.  “Our hope is that visitors will get excited about the museums and then support them,” says Walker.  “Museum Day offers an opportunity to have new people come to these museums and get hooked.”