By Scott H. Harris, Executive Director of UMW Museums
In last month’s newsletter, I shared the good news of the state budget appropriation increase for the University of Mary Washington Museums. I also noted that, in addition to taxpayer support, our museums are mandated to generate earned revenue from admissions, store sales, facility rentals, and donations.* In this Musings, I want to update you on the progress made by UMW Museums in getting visitation and revenue back to something like normal (i.e., pre-pandemic) levels.
The fiscal Year 2019 (July 1, 2018-June 30, 2019) was the last complete financial cycle before the onset of COVID 19. In that period, Gari Melchers Home and Studio (GMHS) had 15,798 visitors and earned $147,321 in revenue from admissions, store sales, facility rentals, and donations. The James Monroe Museum (JMM) welcomed 6,820 visitors and earned $35,267.
The first impact of the pandemic occurred in FY 2020, primarily in the last quarter (April-June, 2020). Traditionally, the spring/early summer period is one of the most active and lucrative of the year. Both museums are closed to the public, ironically, on Friday the 13th of March, 2020. The result was dramatic, as total visitation and revenue for the year dropped by roughly 50% from 2019: 8,373 visitors and $80,011 at GMHS; 3,746 visitors and $17,072 at JMM. Fiscal Year 2021 continued the negative trends: 4,424 visitors and $45,529 at GMHS; 1,434 visitors and $10,687 at JMM.
During the period of closure, which was approximately one year, both museums focused on maintaining facilities and collections while developing more robust online programming to meet mission goals and promote awareness of the museums to virtual audiences. Most online offerings were presented free of charge in light of the myriad financial challenges presented by the pandemic to so many. In addition to the public health and economic issues, 2020 and early 2021 will be remembered for the tensions generated throughout the nation by social justice protests, a divisive and traumatic presidential election, and the subsequent upheavals that occurred before, during, and after January 6, 2021.
*Donation income reported as part of the earned revenue totals comes from donation boxes at each museum. The figures do not reflect membership dues from Friends of Belmont and Friends of the James Monroe Museum, which are accounted for separately.
The fiscal Year 2022, which just concluded, saw positive trends in the activity of UMW Museums, even with the continuation of pandemic-related restrictions for part of the cycle. At GMHS, visitation reached 9,730, with $112,163 in total earned revenue. At JMM, the visitor count was 3,270, and revenue was $10,687. This table helps put all of these figures into perspective:
Gari Melchers Home and Studio James Monroe Museum
Visitation (In Person)
FY 19 15,798 6,820
FY 20 8,373 3,746
FY 21 4,424 1,434
FY 22 9,730 3,270
FY 22 = 120% increase over FY 21 FY 22 = 128% over FY 21
FY 22 = 61.6% of FY 19 level FY 22 = 48% of FY 19 level
Store Sales, Donations,
FY 19 $147,321 $35,267
FY 20 80,011 17,072
FY 21 45,529 10,687
FY 22 112,163 20,604
FY 22 = 146% increase over FY 21 FY 22 = 92.8% increase over FY 21
FY 22 = 76% of FY 19 level FY 22 = 58.4% of FY 19 level
Both museums made impressive gains in FY 2022 over the previous year, though much work remains to equal, and ultimately to exceed pre-pandemic levels. The staff of UMW Museums, supported by the personnel and services of the University as a whole, will strive to meet these challenges and continue to offer enriching experiences to our audiences.