Free museum pass program to end

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(The Museum Adventure Pass display at the East Lake library in Minneapolis.)

One patron wrote about her experience at the Hennepin History Museum’s historic shoe exhibit. Another wrote that she planned a Russian-themed outing around a visit to the Museum of Russian Art, stopping first at Moscow on the Hill restaurant in St. Paul.

Those are only two stories of free visits to local museums and cultural centers posted by library patrons on the Museum Adventure Pass website. But after six years of distributing free passes to local museums at about 100 libraries in the Twin Cities metro area, the Museum Adventure Pass program is ending as of Labor Day.

Sally Lederer is the community relations manager for the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), which runs the program.

“We wanted the program to be a way to introduce library users to all these great programs in the state,” Lederer said. “Fortunately for us, we have these generous cultural organizations that were willing to do this.”

Lederer said many of the organizations didn’t have an issue with the lack of revenue they earned from the program, but that others were hit hard by the recession. When the program started, 24 organizations took part. This year only 17 were participating.

A lot of money is at stake. In the last quarter of 2011, the program handed out 14,000 sets of free passes to the Minnesota Zoo. That’s 28,000 admissions. Without the pass, an adult ticket to the zoo costs $25.75.

Hennepin History Museum Executive Director Jada Hansen said the program has been “phenomenal” for small organizations like hers.

“I know opinion really varies from small museum to large museum, but as a small institution, it literally doubled our attendance,” Hansen said. “It’s really improved our visibility, and now we have some people that will continue to come back.”

The good news is that MELSA is working on a new program that will help library patrons explore local cultural institutions. Lederer said details of the new program should be out by the time the adventure pass program ends.

“Sometimes you get into the mode of rehashing each year the same thing you did the previous year,” Lederer said. “This year we have to get a little more creative.”

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