Number of visits to Smithsonian museums and institutions in the U.S. 1970-2019

Total visits to Smithsonian museums and institutions dropped in 2019 to 22.1 million, down from 28.5 million in the previous year.

What is the Smithsonian?

The Smithsonian is a group of museums and research centers run by the U.S. Government and mostly based in the District of Columbia. Public entry to all Smithsonian museums is free, with funds being provided through federal budget appropriations and donations. In 2019 the National Museum of National History was the most visited of the Smithsonian institutions, attracting 4.2 million visitors in 2019.

Museums in the U.S. and globally

The Smithsonian is by far the largest not-for-profit cultural institution in United States, receiving over three times the revenue of the next largest, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The comparison is perhaps a little misleading though, given that the Smithsonian is a group of institutions. If assessed in terms of a single institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has higher visitor numbers than any single Smithsonian museum, and in 2018 was the third-most visited art museum in the world.

Number of visits to Smithsonian museums and institutions in the United States from 1970 to 2019

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Release date

May 2020


United States

Survey time period

1970 to 2019

Supplementary notes

Because the Smithsonian museums are free, they cannot base our visit tallies on a number of tickets sold. Smithsonian security officers use hand clickers to count everyone entering the museums (in some buildings they count people leaving) through public entrances during the hours the museums are open. The counts sometimes include staff, as well as visitors who leave the museum and return. A person visiting three Smithsonian museums on any given day will be counted three times. The newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), has an automated counting system that counts visitors (and staff) as they enter the museum.
The source does not provide a date of publication. The date given is the date accessed.

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Statistics on "Museums in the United States"

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