By Anne Petersen
The Museums for All program launched in 2014 as an equity initiative to serve a broad public. Co-hosted by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Association of Children’s Museums (ACM), the program requires that participating museums offer free or low-cost admission to visitors who present their SNAP EBT (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefit Transfer) card. In California this program is called CalFresh. By removing cost as a barrier to entry, Museums for All intends to encourage more widespread museum attendance and help support the next generation of museumgoers by fostering a culture of welcome and accessibility.
The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation became aware of this program a couple of years ago and had participation in mind when creating our 2020-2022 Diversity Equity and Inclusion Plan. While our participation is meaningful on its own, the impact county-wide would be difficult to measure. During the pandemic and related shutdowns and museum closures, the Santa Barbara County Museum Director’s group began meeting frequently online and offering mutual support. I coordinated a presentation about Museums for All earlier this year, and the group embraced the concept and agreed they wanted to create a county-wide initiative for participation.
Museums for All recognizes any city with three or more participants in the program as a “Hub City.” While we hoped to be recognized as a “Hub County,” reflecting our cooperation county-wide, Museums for All does not yet have that designation. Regardless, we have made astounding progress in a short amount of time and are promoting our county-wide efforts as a collective. We currently count eighteen participating Santa Barbara County museums! Museums for All has reported on Santa Barbara’s rapid registration rate in their newsletter and let us know that of the Hub Cities in their program, only the City of Chicago has more participating institutions!
At SBTHP, The Museums for All program is available to visitors to El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, which is open now, and later this year when it reopens, Casa de la Guerra. Visitors who show their SNAP EBT or CalFresh cards will receive free admission.
We look forward to continuing work with our colleagues to promote Museums for All and encourage participation and access to museums for everyone.