Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough reported Monday that the number of visitors to the Smithsonian had declined by 2 percent. That meant only 29 million people had visited the museums, still making the complex bulging with visitors.
At the same time donations from the private sector had exceeded the Smithsonian’s own goal for last year and brought in $182 million.
“We are pleased with this trend and how the gifts fit into our strategic plan,” Clough said at a press briefing. The data was given to the Smithsonian Regents Monday. For the first time at a regularly scheduled meeting, Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr., joined the group for lunch.
The decline in visitors, especially at the National Air and Space Museum, officials said, could be attributed to the leveling off of visitors who were enticed by the 2009 movie, “Night at the Museum- Battle of the Smithsonian.” The zoo falloff could be a factor of the summer weather, with a string of hot days, followed by an earthquake and hurricane, officials said.
While slightly fewer people went to the museums, they seemed to be spending, according to the Smithsonian. Its business division, Smithsonian Enterprises had its 5th year of net growth, said Clough, and returned $29 million to the Smithsonian private accounts. The most successful units of the division are retail, then media and consumer products.
Recently, despite the fact that Smithsonian magazine survived a tough recession for publishing, the magazine let go several editorial employees. Clough said, “we need to reconfigure and modernized the magazine and get a new audience. We are going to focus on digital content.”
The meeting marked the transfer of the Regents’ chair from Patty Stonesifer to France A. Cordova, the outgoing president of Purdue University.
Earlier in the day Cristian Samper, the director of the National Museum of Natural History, announced he was leaving. Stonesifer said, “he has had an 11 year run and he is leaving things in such great shape. You always hate to see talent like that go.”