The National September 11 Memorial & Museum revealed last week that the museum would be asking for a $24 admission fee, according to CNN. But those who have resorted to blaming the museum for the high cost are holding the wrong people accountable.
The ticket price was set and approved by the memorial’s board of trustees to keep the museum running as a part of its $63 million operating budget and financial plan, according to the Wall Street Journal. That had not stopped the memorial, however, from attempting to secure federal funding. In 2011, the memorial pushed a bill asking Congress to allocate $20 million in annual federal funding to the museum. It also put forth efforts to secure funding from the city of New York. Both attempts were unsuccessful.
Critics of the price accuse the museum of making a tourist attraction out of an important national site. But the price tag isn’t about profiting over the nation’s loss. Rather, it’s about maintaining a space for people to learn about and commemorate the nation’s history without the luxury of relying on federal support.
Approximately 5.3 million people visited the neighboring 9/11 memorial in 2013, and it is projected that the museum will see an annual attendance of 2.5 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. If the museum were to attract that many paying visitors per year, it would amount to roughly $60 million — just shy of its $63 million operating budget. The museum simply cannot afford to reduce its prices.
The federal government won’t pay for it, and the museum certainly cannot pay for itself. Yet despite the lack of funding, the museum has gone out of its way to ensure that every American — regardless of socioeconomic background — has the right to visit this historic site. Relatives of September 11 victims as well as children under the age of 5 will always be granted free admission to the museum. In addition, the museum will be open to the public at no charge for three hours every Tuesday evening, thus providing a weekly opportunity for those who might not otherwise be able to afford it.
The museum isn’t the only one charging hefty prices. Comparatively, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which also doesn’t receive government funding, charges $25 per ticket. And the city’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum charges $22. Other museums that are able to offer reduced ticket prices or free admission, such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., benefit from sizable government support — $48 million and $26 million, respectively. The two scenarios simply aren’t equitable.
September 11 was a tragedy that shook the nation, and its museum should be one that is accessible to all Americans, regardless of wealth. But rather than blame the museum for attempting to make ends meet, Americans should demand that such an important place of learning and remembrance — like other federally funded institutions — receive the same support.
Yasmeen Serhan is a sophomore majoring in international relations. She is also the Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Fridays.