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Posted at 11:07 AM ET, 11/12/2010

$7.50 entrance fee for Smithsonian?

By Associated Press

Leaders of President Barack Obama's deficit reduction commission are recommending the Smithsonian Institution museums get less money from Congress and begin charging admission fees instead.

The proposal Wednesday by the bipartisan commission leaders suggests Smithsonian funding be cut by $225 million. It says the difference could be made up by charging about $7.50 per visitor in admission fees.

The same section suggests $75 million in cuts to the National Park Service and suggests a slight increase in visitor fees.

Smithsonian museums have been free since 1846. Proposals to charge admission come up periodically but don't go far.

In 2008, California Rep. Xavier Becerra, who serves on the Smithsonian board, promised to "fight tooth and nail" against ever charging admission.

By Associated Press  | November 12, 2010; 11:07 AM ET
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not such a good idea- how about BHO and congress all take a paycut?

Posted by: 10bestfan | November 12, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Well, like most "armchair experts", whomeever lfoated this idea, didn't really think it through.

So they say, "hey, 30 million people a year visit the Smithsonian", lets charge them all $7.50 a that will make up the federal contribution."

The first thing they obviously didn't consider is that once it is no longer free, fewer people will go. I go 3 times a month or so...have no problem about walking in to a mueseum for 20 minutes to see a new exhibit and walk out.

The second thing they didn't think about is that once you start charging, you have to set up and pay for the infrastructure to actually charge. Now you have to have manned ticket booths in all the museums all day long. So now you are paying 3 or 4 people, times the ~ 12 facilities down on the mall, or 48 people. Thats not including the half a dozen off mall facilities (Zoo, Dulles Air and Space etc).

Third and last, you are going to go to all that effort to shoe string the worlds largest and finest museum complex, basically THE US repository for all museum knowledge etc to save 225 million dollars a year?

The federal deficit is ~1.2 trillion. Why are you wasting all this ridiculous time to save one quarter of one percent of the yearly deficit, which then relegates the worlds most famous museum complex to second place.

Posted by: Nosh1 | November 12, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Are you nuts? Have Congresspeople cut their staffs by 70%, and put that money in the Smithsonian.

Posted by: jckdoors | November 12, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

James Smithson is probably rolling in his grave right now!!! This is an absolute outrage!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know who I will NOT be voting for in the next presidential election!!!!!!!!! NObama!

Posted by: wplandry | November 12, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Charging admissions? Watch attendance drop at each of the museums.
A far better idea: The gift shops (and I believe the restaurants) do not charge any sales taxes robbing DC of needed income. No reason for this at all. After all, we the people of DC do provide services to our tourists both local and visiting types.

Posted by: johnklenert | November 13, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Is someone saying that regressive barebones capitalism is a healthy tonic for our struggling population and a fitting symbol of America’s beacon to the world for our international visitors? No fee was instituted during the Great Depression. Are they saying this is worse than that? Or are they saying something else?

Posted by: myhonestopinion | November 13, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

OK - as long as it is done properly.

1. Avoid the horrible lines that are typical of the Louvre, Met and Vatican museums. Part of that is avoiding odd figures like $7.50. Make it $5 or 10.

2. Make it one ticket for all museums on a given day.

3. Provide a reasonable annual membership for those of us who live here and visit frequently. The simple way would be to make Smithsonian Associate membership apply to admissions.

Posted by: dangamber | November 13, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

If you charged one price for all museums on a given day, you'd have lots of people just handing over their tickets to strangers as they were leaving and done for the day. And, it's obvious the visitor count will drop off dramatically, especially from the locals.

Instead of eliminating free education for the masses, let's get rid of the life time benefits a person who has served just one term in Congress gets. Make Congress save for their own retirement and pay for their insurance like the rest of us.

Posted by: itsannies | November 13, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Not only will attendance drop but donors as well. If this is implemented, say goodbye to to one of world's most prestigious research institutions.

Posted by: carr530 | November 13, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't necessarily disagree, but I do think we jumped to far.

First of all, have they considered a "donation box." There are a lot of small, private museums that have a box at the door. I always put something in the box (ususally $2 - $3). I just feel wrong enjoying the museum and not donating as I leave. And I much prefer this to the "mailing list" later (I never send money - it's a waste of a stamp.)

So the Smithsonian should consider a drop box before anything. More people would give than you think. Sure, there are some people who would walk out, but most of use appreciate the experience, and understand that it takes a lot of resources to make this happen, and we WOULD give. That should be the FIRST STEP after free.

THEN we can consider an entrance fee. And start SMALL. Right now, you get NOTHING. Why start with $7.50? ANYTHING is more than NOTHING. Start with $2. That would be $60M - not a bad sum of money. It's a small amount where a family of four could pay with a $10 and get change. No one would walk away from that. $30... depending on my travel budget, we might just have to tour the monuments instead...

Remember, many of our visitors have a less privileged life than we have here. They cared enough to bring their children to the nation's capital (despite the overprice hotels and food!) Let's not break them as they try to learn about the nation's history.

Posted by: camiwa | November 13, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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