New Yorkers have used their library cards more than 19,000 times in the last month for free access to museums, gardens and galleries through the new Culture Pass program, officials told amNewYork.
Since launching in mid-July, the program has led to a spike in the number of people applying for library cards in all three systems.
But the rollout of the Culture Pass was not without growing pains. Its fledgling website was not prepared for the volume of New Yorkers vying for free entry to some of the city’s top cultural sites. People weathered technical difficulties, such as the website freezing and crashing. And some card holders complained when highly-requested museum tickets went quickly.
“Passes for every institution on the list have been reserved,” said Fritzi Bodenheimer of the Brooklyn Public Library, which helps administer the Culture Pass program. “Since the launch, an additional 20 organizations have inquired about joining the program.”
Currently, 37 sites across the city donate free admissions through Culture Pass. Well-known locations are some of the top requests, including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“With school out for summer, passes for museums with exhibitions for children are particularly popular right now, as are gardens and art museums,” said Bodenheimer.
Each cultural institution determines how many passes it will donate every month to Culture Pass participants. A portion of the free passes to some of the institutions are set aside for people in underserved communities, who may not otherwise be able to afford admission, which can cost as much as $25 for an adult.
So far, more than 960 visitors came to the Museum of Modern Art through Culture Pass.
MoMA decided to increase the number of tickets it donates monthly from 400 to 1,000 after seeing the initial success of the program, according to a representative.
“Recognizing our three public library systems as important neighborhood resources, the CreateNYC cultural plan called for more opportunities for meaningful partnerships between libraries and cultural organizations,” Tom Finkelpearl, commissioner of the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, said in a statement. “Culture Pass is a great example of such a collaboration.”
Some of the city’s hidden gems, such as the Louis Armstrong House in Queens and Wave Hill in the Bronx, may get a larger audience through the program.
“We’re delighted to be a part of it,” said Martha Gellens, assistant director of marketing and communications at Wave Hill, a public garden and cultural center. “I don’t know the numbers, but the passes we made available were snapped up right away.”
Since Culture Pass launched on July 16, more than 8,000 people have applied for cards at the Queens Library, the system reported Aug. 5. That reflects a 27 percent increase in applications compared to the previous three weeks, officials said.
The New York Public Library, which covers Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, received more than 23,000 new library card applications online from July 16 through Aug. 5. That is a fourfold increase over the previous three weeks.
Officials at the Brooklyn system said they noticed an increase in library card applications as well, but they were not immediately able to disclose specific numbers.