The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., created quite an uproar in 2007 when it opened with exhibits showing early humans co-existing with dinosaurs. Five years later, the public fascination with that take on paleoanthropology seems to be fading.
This week, the museum told CityBeat that attendance for the year ended June 30 came to 254,074. That amounts to a 10 percent drop from last year’s 282,000 and is the museum’s fourth straight year of declining attendance and its lowest annual attendance yet. The $27 million museum drew 404,000 in its first year and just over 300,000 each of the next two.
Michael Zovath, senior vice president for the Creation Museum and its parent organization, Answers in Genesis Inc., offered nothing to blame but the brontosaurus-slow U.S. economy and pterodactyl-high gas prices.
But Zovath says the museum is still up 4,000 visitors over its budgeted 250,000.
Still, the museum is having to make adjustments. On its 2011 federal income tax return, Answers in Genesis reported a 5 percent drop in museum revenue to $5.1 million. Worse, AIG slumped to its first-ever financial loss — $540,218. As of deadline for CityBeat’s print edition, AIG hadn’t provided financial results for fiscal 2012, which ended June 30. Zovath said the museum itself isn’t losing money.
To ensure its financial health, the Creation Museum raised admission prices on July 1, to $29.95 for adults, up from $24.95. Zovath said the 20 percent jump hasn’t slowed down traffic. About 70 percent of museum visitors, he said, come from out of town. “The average drive time in our last study was 250 miles and 1.8 days, so it’s been pretty constant compared with previous years,” he said.
Veering into red ink, though, can bode ill for a non-profit museum. For a possible precursor, consider the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. In its last three tax years, the Freedom Center relied on $2.9 million in taxpayer subsidies, yet it wasn’t enough to keep it from showing a three-year, combined operating deficit of $21.2 million. In June, the Freedom Center was absorbed into the Cincinnati Museum Center.