New England living history museum also posts gains in membership, donations
Old Sturbridge Village President and CEO James E. Donahue announced that for the calendar year ending Dec. 31, 2008, the museum’s attendance increased eight percent, to 238, 912, compared to 221, 432 the previous year. Museum membership during 2008 also rose eight percent to 6, 700 member households compared to 2007, and donations have more than doubled over the last two years. Old Sturbridge Village depicts life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. It is also one of the top New England tourist attractions.
"Old Sturbridge Village appears to be bucking the trend at a time when attendance at many museums is down, " Donahue said. "The upswing is particularly notable during a year of such economic turbulence, when the stock market dropped 34 percent and gas prices topped $4 per gallon."
Donahue attributed the bump in attendance at the living history museum to an increase in families and day trippers looking for entertaining, enriching, and educational experiences closer to home. He noted that Old Sturbridge Village is within a one hour drive of eight million people, and many tourists take advantage of the museum’s offer of a free second day return visit within 10 days.
Old Sturbridge Village’s attendance and membership gains are the latest in a series of encouraging developments during 2008, which included a special event honoring award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who made his first film about the OSV, a fund-raising gala that netted $90, 000, and sell-out crowds for the museum’s July 4th fireworks display and Thanksgiving Day dinner. Crowds for both the 2008 April school vacation and the Columbus Day holiday weekend were up more than 35 percent over the same periods in 2007.
"Museums have weathered economic ups and downs in this country for more than 200 years, " said Ford W. Bell, president of the American Association of Museums. "One of the reasons for the resilience of museums is the kind of innovative, engaging programming offered by institutions such as Old Sturbridge Village. The institution is such a part of the local, state and regional communities that people keep coming back, finding new rewards in each visit."
Among the new experiences OSV has added recently are an interactive hands-on craft center, an historic replica Concord stagecoach that visitors can ride from May through November, and ice skating, sledding, and sleigh rides during the winter months. The museum has expanded its "Dinner in a Country Village" series where guests learn to cook over the fireplace, and its popular "Discovery Camps, " where campers dress in authentic costumes and experience life as children did in the 1830s.
In addition to hosting more than 60, 000 schoolchildren who visit the museum on field trips, Old Sturbridge Villager interpreters visit thousands more students in their classrooms through the expanded "History on the Road" programs.
"The success of Old Sturbridge Village in 2008 is an example of the vital role that cultural organizations play in the quality of our communities and in the education of our children, said Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. "The depth of support for this organization, even during an economic downturn, is a testament to the experience it provides."
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life from 1790-1830 and is open year round (closed winter Mondays except on holidays). OSV event highlights for 2009 include Fire & Ice Day, Maple Days, Wool Days, July 4th, Redcoats and Rebels, Thanksgiving, and Christmas by Candlelight. Winter hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tues. – Sun. Admission: $20; seniors $18; children 3-17, $7; children under 3, free. Each admission includes a free second-day visit within 10 days. OSV is located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass.
For details: osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.
Old Sturbridge Village
Ann Lindblad, 508-347-0323