I’m sure you’ve seen the Ben Stiller movie “Night at the Museum,” where all the exhibits come to life after the museum’s doors are shut for the night. But, what really happens when it’s closing time at the museum, and why do museums close so early?
Most museums close on average at around 5 pm (17:00). There are a few reasons for this, many of which are linked to finances. Museums may not have the budget to pay staff to work past 5 pm, and Museums tend to rent out their space in the evenings for events as an additional source of income.
Okay, so the truth is a far cry less whimsical and exciting than what is portrayed in the movies as the early closing times are mostly to do with finances. Below we’ll take a closer look at some of the rationale behind why museums close so early.
I’ll also share with you the opening and closing times for some of the top museums in the U.S. and abroad.
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The Facts Behind Museum Closing Times
Although it would make sense for museums to open during the evening hours to allow those who work a chance to visit and make use of the facilities, most museums would not be able to afford to stay open late.
Perhaps even more importantly, many people leaving work would rather head home and spend time with their families or participate in their after-work activities than explore the wonders of a history or art museum.
- Museum boards recognized this issue and instead offered their museums to individuals and corporations as venues for various functions. This is a significant income stream that would not be possible if the museum remained open in the evenings.
- In other cases, museums operate as not-for-profit institutions that are manned by volunteers. In these instances, asking the volunteers to work late for no payment would probably make it difficult to find anyone willing to help!
- Curators and boards need to understand their target audiences’ needs, wants and limitations, and plan their opening and closing times accordingly. It would not make much sense to stay open late if no one took advantage of these times to visit.
- Another factor influencing closing time is that educational and school groups are a large focus of many museums. The most convenient time for these groups to visit is between 10:00 am and 03:00 pm.
- In addition to early closing times, many museums and galleries close for a day or two during the week. The purpose of these closures is for maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and to change the exhibits, to name but a few. These tasks are much simpler to achieve without the presence of noisy school groups or curious tourists. These “off” days are generally days that would have been quiet in terms of visitors anyway. From personal experience in the tourism industry, I can attest to this fact. Monday’s and Tuesday’s were generally low attendance days when we could do maintenance tasks on vehicles and buildings in preparation for the busier days of the week.
As with any business, museums and galleries operate on “people power.” Employees need to rest, and managers must know when they will require “all hands on deck”!
When Do Museums Stay Open Past “Closing Time”?
There are, however, exceptions to the rule that “museums are a 9-5 job”. For example, many museums have evening exhibitions (or night tours) once a month, overnight programs where children can sleepover at the museum, and extended or reduced hours during the holiday season.
These “deviations” help to reinforce the idea that there needs to be careful planning of staffing and other resources to ensure that the museum can achieve the most value for the hours they are open.
Many museums have a membership program. In this case, a member pays a yearly fee, and in return, they will receive some special benefits, like attending the museum for an extra hour or two, either before or after opening time.
In addition, members may have access to a special guided tour that can only be conducted in the evenings (especially if there is a planetarium).
When I was younger, my family had a membership with the local aquarium. The sleepover next to the shark tank, along with the midnight tour, are both fond memories for me.
Opening and Closing Times Of Popular Museums In The USA
Now that we know that museums close rather early, here is a table of the opening and closing times of 21 museums in the United States to help you.
|Museum Name||Location||Opening Time||Closing Time||Days Closed (excluding public holidays)||Focus|
|The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met)||New York City||10 am||5 pm||Tuesday and Wednesday||Art-Ancient to Modern|
|Museum of Modern Art||New York City||10:30 am||Sun-Fri: 5:30pm Sat: 7:30pm||Mondays 10:30 am-1 pm Members only||Art-Contemporary|
|The Art Institute of Chicago||Chicago||11 am (non-members)||Mon, Sat & Sun: 6pm Thu & Fri: 9pm||Tuesday and Wednesday||Art-Ancient to Modern|
|National Museum of American History||Washington D.C.||10 am||5:30 pm||Wednesday and Thursday||History-American: Politics, innovation, business, and entertainment.|
|American Museum of Natural History||New York City||10 am||5:30 pm||Monday and Tuesday||History-Global, Human and nature.|
|National Gallery of Art||Washington D.C.||10 am||5 pm||n/a||Art- Western, Ancient to Modern.|
|National Museum of African American History and Culture||Washington D.C.||11 am||4 pm||Monday and Tuesday||History- African American life, history, and culture.|
|Museum of Fine Arts||Boston||10 am||5 pm||Monday and Tuesday||Art- Ancient to Modern|
|Detroit Institute of Arts||Detroit||Wed-Fri: 9 am Sat-Sun: 10am||Wed-Fri: 4 pm Sat-Sun: 5 pm||Monday and Tuesday||Art- Ancient to Modern|
|Cleveland Museum of Art||Cleveland||10 am||Tue, Thu, Sat, Sun: 5 pm Wed & Fri: 9pm||Monday||Art- Ancient to Modern|
|National 9/11 Memorial & Museum||New York City||10 am||5 pm||Tuesday and Wednesday||History- Commemoration of 9/11 attacks|
|The National WWII Museum||New Orleans||9 am||5 pm||n/a||History- World War 2|
|Kennedy Space Center||Titusville, Florida||10 am||Mon-Fri: 4pm Sat & Sun: 5 pm||n/a||History- Space and NASA|
|The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis||Indianapolis||10 am||5 pm||Monday||History- arts, sciences, and humanities|
|Greenfield Village||Dearborn, Michigan||9:30 am||5 pm||n/a||History- American|
|Asian Art Museum||San Francisco||Thu: 1 pm Fri-Mon: 10 am||Thu: 8 pm Fri-Mon: 5 pm||Tuesday and Wednesday||Art- Asian|
|The Getty Center||Los Angeles||10 am||5 pm||Monday||Art- Medieval to Modern|
|Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum||Washington D.C.||10 am||5:30 pm||Tuesday and Wednesday||History- Aviation and Space travel|
|USS Midway Museum||San Diego, California||10 am||5 pm||n/a||History- Naval, U.S. Military|
|Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History||Washington D.C.||10 am||5:30 pm||Monday and Tuesday||History- Human and nature|
|The Houston Museum of Natural Science||Houston, Texas||9 am||6 pm||n/a||History- Natural Science|
Opening and Closing Times Of Popular International Museums
If you are traveling abroad and would like to look at some of the local historic culture, you will find a table below of the opening and closing times of the Top 10 International Museums to assist you.
|Museum Name||Location||Opening Time||Closing Time||Days Closed (excluding public holidays||Focus|
|Louvre||Paris, France||9 am||6 pm||Tuesday||History and Art|
|Egyptian Museum||Cairo, Egypt||9 am||5 pm||n/a||History- Egyptian|
|Vatican Museums||Vatican City, Italy||8:30 am||Mon-Thu: 6:30 pm Fri & Sat: 10:30pm||Sunday||Art- Christian|
|British Museum||London, England||10 am||5 pm||n/a||History- Global, Ancient to Modern|
|The Uffizi Gallery||Florence, Italy||8:15 am||6:50pm||Monday||Art- Medieval to Modern|
|State Hermitage Museum||Saint Petersburg, Russia||11 am||Tue, Thu & Sun: 7 pm Wed, Fri & Sat: 8pm||Monday||History and Art|
|National Palace Museum||Taipei, Taiwan||9 am||5 pm||Monday||History and Art- Asian|
|The National Museum of Anthropology||Mexico City, Mexico||10 am||5 pm||Sunday and Monday||History- Mexico, Ancient to Modern|
|Museo Nacional del Prado||Madrid, Spain||10 am||Mon-Sat: 8 pm Sun: 7 pm||n/a||Art|
|Rijksmuseum||Amsterdam, Netherlands||9 am||5 pm||n/a||History- Dutch|
The biggest factors determining a museum’s closing time are the human and financial elements. If resources were infinite, museums, art galleries, libraries, and other public amenities could remain open indefinitely.
However, this is not the case. So, in order to avoid disappointment, phone ahead and double-check that the museum/art gallery you desire to visit will be open when you get there!
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