Hundreds of US Museums Will Be Free on September 18

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After a forced hiatus last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day will return on September 18, 2021, offering free admission to hundreds of museums nationwide.

If you want to plan your visit well in advance, tickets are already available on the Smithsonian magazine’s website. Each ticket grants free access to two people at any of the participating museums. But it’s not only museums that will be offering free admission on September 18; zoos and cultural centers in all 50 states are also included.

In New York, you can get free admission to some 36 museums, including the Poster House, the Museum of Arts and Design, Hudson River Museum, and The AKC Museum of the Dog. Notably, institutions like the Jewish Museum, Museum of Chinese in America, and the National Museum of American Indians in New York, all of which participated in the 2019 Museum Day, are absent from the list of participating museums this year. A spokesperson for the Jewish Museum told Hyperallergic that the museum already offers free admission on Saturdays and that it opted out of the program this year because “We still require timed tickets and need to manage our capacity.” The Museum of Chinese in America has been offering free admission all week since it reopened in July. The National Museum of the American Indian in New York clarified to Hyperallergic that it plans to participate but has had technical issues uploading the information to their site.

In an email to Hyperallergic, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian Magazine said that museums across the country were invited to take part in the event but “It is up to each individual museum to register to participate.” Museum registration is open until September 16 at this link, the spokesperson added.  

The theme for this year’s Museum Day is “Experience America,” celebrating the return to arts and culture after a year of extended closures due to the pandemic. According to the Smithsonian, the festive day represents “a national commitment to access, equality and inclusion.”

The Smithsonian also has some ideas for museums on how to engage visitors with the “Experience America” theme. Suggestions include hosting exhibitions that focus on local arts and culture; screening films that highlight environment, education, and social justice; and on the fun side, organizing scavenger hunts of pieces in the museum collection.

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