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Seeking Clarity on Fees at the Metropolitan Museum

Thursday, October 17, 2013   (0 Comments)

New York Times (10/08/13) Lyall, Sarah

The New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art's admissions policy is the focus of several lawsuits on the docket of the State Supreme Court. The litigants accuse the museum of misleading the public not only about how much to pay, but also whether a fee is even required. The suits cite both a clause in the museum's original 1876 lease and a 1893 state statute that visitors must be admitted free on most days of the week. The Met argues that free admission was phased out in 1970, when a new arrangement between the city and the museum superseded all previous mandates. The Pay What You Wish policy enables attendees to decide their own fees, although the minimum recommended price has risen in the intervening decades. "The agreement with the city specifies that there has to be some minimal contribution," says Met official Harold Holzer. Compounding the confusion visitors face are signs that set out admissions fees in bold type while also featuring the world "recommended" in smaller, unbolded type. Meanwhile, printed materials say free admission is a perk of annual membership available for $60 and up, and there also are online discounts that fail to mention that visitors are entitled to unilaterally discount their own tickets. If the State Supreme Court finds for the plaintiffs, then the Met could forfeit $40 million in annual revenue, or about 16 percent of its operating budget.



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