Night view, looking north, of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (photo by Roland Halbe)
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, in a move reflecting changing museum economics, has begun charging for docent-led adult tours that had been free since the museum’s earliest days.
The fee for regular tours will be $100 for a minimum of two people and a maximum of 12. Regular tours include special exhibitions, collection highlights, and the museum’s sculpture park. For a special exhibit, visitors also will be required to purchase tickets to the exhibit.
The fee for custom tours, which require docents to do extra research, will be $300 for two to 12 people.
The fees are kicking in as Nelson-Atkins on-site tours have resumed following the height of the COVID pandemic.
“As we bring programs back on site, we are taking a careful look at all of our offerings, and looking at ways to make the museum more sustainable, and deliver on our commitment to be as accessible as possible to the broadest population,” said Anne Manning, the museum’s deputy director of learning and engagement.
To that end, the Nelson-Atkins “made the decision to charge for some of our adult experiences with docents,” she said.
Manning said the museum conferred with its approximately 120 docents and other museums before charging tour fees. “One of the things we learned is that it’s been a long-standing practice at museums across the country to charge for adult group tours,” she said.
Manning said the museum also did a pricing study that indicated willingness to pay for adult tours.
At the same time, the Nelson-Atkins will offer a new tour option known as “docent spotlight,” where visitors can visit the museum at a scheduled time and meet with a docent in a particular gallery at no charge.
Docent-led tours for school groups (which resumed on-site in April) will continue to be free, as will tours organized by colleges and universities for degree-seeking students.
Nelson-Atkins partners, non-profits, and groups with demonstrated need may be eligible for tour discounts, and Nelson-Atkins members will receive a 20 percent discount.
The museum’s virtual tours will continue on a more limited basis, Manning said. “We think virtual and digital is here to stay in museums. We’ll continue to adapt and evolve as our world continues to change.”