The New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

NYC’s Culture Pass Program Overwhelmed by Demand for Museum Tickets

Thousands of New Yorkers have signed up for library cards since the launch of the wildly popular Culture Pass program, which offers members of the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public libraries free tickets to thirty-three museums. While tickets are replenished monthly, passes to some of the city’s most popular and most expensive venues—regular admission tickets to the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art cost $25—have run out.

The New York Times reports that four days after the program kicked off, the New York Public Library system received more than 12,000 online library card applications. The average number of sign-ups for library cards per day is usually 290. On the day Culture Pass was announced more than 5,000 people applied for cards online. According to the Art Newspaper23,000 passes had been reserved by the public as of August and at least 58,000 passes are expected to be available for the year, but this number could grow since cultural institutions are already making some adjustments in response to the program’s success.

The Guggenheim Museum recently increased the number of monthly culture passes it offers from one hundred to two hundred and MoMA has more than doubled it, raising it from four hundred to one thousand. According to a MoMA spokesperson, the institution has also set aside half of its passes for people living in parts of the city “with lower median incomes,” or “areas from which the museum has not welcomed many visitors in past years.”

“We knew that there was considerable need and demand for a program like this,” Angela Montefinise, a New York Library spokesperson told the New York Times. “So while the overwhelming response hasn’t been surprising, it has been extremely gratifying to see a program designed to promote learning, culture and knowledge quickly become the hottest ticket in town.”

In addition to the high level of interest in the program, another issue that institutions are dealing with is confusion over how to get tickets. “A lot of people thought that if they had a library card, that ipso facto means that when they arrive at the museum they’ll be let in for free,” said the Guggenheim’s director of institutional and global partnerships Corinne Godsall. As stated on the program’s website, however, visitors must reserve passes online, which are released three months in advance on the first of every month. Depending on the institution, cardholders can request passes for two adults or families of four, but can only receive free admission to each institution once per year.