The Harvard Art Museums today announce a new free admission policy for all visitors, effective immediately. The new policy represents a significant expansion of free access to the museums’ collections, exhibitions, and research for public audiences. The museums are open to visitors Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm (except major holidays), and during monthly Harvard Art Museums at Night programs on the last Thursday evening of each month.
This new initiative is made possible by a generous contribution from the Estate of David Rockefeller and support from the Office of the President at Harvard University.
“Art is for everyone, and the Harvard Art Museums will now be free to all visitors,” said Lawrence S. Bacow, President of Harvard University. “This initiative ensures that every visitor to our campus will now have the opportunity to view and engage with the phenomenal collections in our care at the Harvard Art Museums.”
The museums have a long history of providing free admission to a significant percentage of visitors, including the Harvard community, students from all universities and colleges worldwide, youth under 18, Cambridge residents, Massachusetts residents on Saturday mornings, and many others. Over the past 18 months, two newer initiatives created by the museums offered additional free admission opportunities. In September 2021, the museums began to offer free admission to all visitors on Sundays, and in April 2022 the museums began the Harvard Art Museums at Night program, granting free admission to all visitors on the last Thursday of each month from 5 to 9pm (holidays permitting).
The new free admission policy for all visitors expands on the success of the more recent opportunities offered; the museums have seen dramatic increases in visitation in 2022 and 2023 as a result of the Sunday and Thursday evening initiatives and following the lifting of Covid-related policy restrictions in Spring 2022. Since that time, visitation has been consistently increasing at an average of 20 percent per month, with a notable 40 percent increase in August 2022. This growth has been sustained in the first half of 2023, with a 90 percent visitation increase in January and the highest-ever monthly visitation in April. The Free Sundays and Thursday evening events have both attracted, on average, between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors since their inception (a 50 percent increase for Sundays), with as much as half that number representing first-time visitors.
The combined effect of granting free admission to existing audiences and the expectation of continued growth in visitation represents a significant new investment in opening the museums and collections to residents of the Greater Boston area as well as those visiting from around the world. Harvard University and Harvard Square are major attractions to those visiting the area.
“We are thrilled to implement this new comprehensive free admission policy, which will remain in place permanently,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “Taking this step represents our deep commitment to serving all audiences, enhancing our mission of teaching and research, and becoming a center where discovery, exchange, inclusion, and learning can flourish for all. Increasing numbers of longtime supporters and new friends alike have been showing us that we have something unique to offer in the cultural landscape and that we are a welcoming place to experience art and community together.”
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