A day at the museum is getting more expensive: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to increase some prices at the Natural History Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits, with adult admission rising to $18.
The increase, effective July 1, is a 20% jump for adults. Admission for seniors, students and youths ages 13 to 17 will rise to $14 (from $12), a 17% increase. Meanwhile, entry for children ages 3 to 12 will remain $7, and kids under 2 will still be free.
The proposal by Lori Bettison-Varga, president and director of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, passed 4-0, supported by supervisors Kathryn Barger, Janice Hahn, Lindsey P. Horvath and Hilda L. Solis. Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell was not present to vote; her office said she had joined a county delegation exploring models for unhoused people and other residents.
The Natural History Museum in Exposition Park and the Tar Pits in Hancock Park are operated as a public-private partnership between the county and the nonprofit Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation. The latter said the admission hike would be used to "fund increasing costs associated with expanded offerings of free public programs, new exhibitions, educational and community engagement, and the maintenance of collections."
The last time the museums’ admission was raised was in 2017, when the price for adults was $12. By the time the new fees go into effect, adult admission will have risen 50% in six years.
A representative for the museums said the increases would allow the organization "to continue to provide free access for various community members, who currently comprise more than one-third of total attendance. These include California teachers, active and retired military, EBT card holders, thousands of schoolchildren and USC students, faculty and staff."
Museum officials argued that the new fees were in line with those at comparable institutions, while opponents emphasized the museums' status as county educational operations, not private endeavors. Critics also noted the timing, that many people were still grappling with inflation and found themselves unable to afford tickets to, say, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures or the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens.
"During this time, when so many individuals are still suffering from the COVID pandemic lockdown and the ongoing inflation, I don’t think raising the price of admission to the two museums is a wise decision," wrote Geneviève M. Clavreul, who offered public comment in a document attached to the supervisors meeting agenda. "I hope the board will reconsider and put off an admission increase further down the road when our citizens' pocketbooks are less burdened."
The museums do offer free admission to L.A. County residents weekdays from 3 to 5 p.m. Supervisors acknowledged how difficult it would be for students and others who live in outlying areas to reach Exposition Park or the Tar Pits during that narrow window, yet they moved forward with the proposal, which estimated that the new prices would generate between $900,000 and $1.1 million in annual revenue.
Solis cautioned that higher fees were not a sustainable funding strategy and asked how the musuems planned to raise money in other ways. Bettison-Varga said they were focusing on external funding sources, including the state.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.