An American Association of Museums taken in January of 2010 (results published here) makes it appear that more people are taking advantage of museum offerings.
Some of the interesting results:
--More than 55% of museums noted an increase in attendence, with 14.6% seeing a greater than 20% boost.
--Science/technology museums noted the largest increases.
--62.8% of Midwest museums noted an increase--the largest reported for any region.
--Contrary to the "cultural tourism" push, one of the prime reasons given for the increases is "more aggressive marketing to local visitors."
--Museums that charged an entry fee were less likely to see increases.
--Midwest museums are near the top in reporting that they are under "severe or very severe stress."
There is a caveat or two: First, museums aren't consistant when it comes to tallying these numbers. Some include visitors to museum grounds while others don't. Second, the survey was completed by 481 museums, which may sound substantial until you note that there are 2,300 institutions in the AAM.
Even with those notes, is there something substantial to be learned here?
In tough economic times, have you spent more of your leisure time at museums?
I'm still running into people who don't realize that our Indianapolis Museum of Art is free. Is that news to you?
Oh, and for a satiric look at the issue, see a brief man-on-the-street report from the not-really-the-news site The Onion.