Museum Settles Admission Policy Class Action Suit

March 28, 2016       Mark Hrywna      

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Signs around The Metropolitan Museum of Art that read, “recommended admission,” will be changed by next month to read “suggested admission,” as part of a class action lawsuit settlement. The Met in New York City announced the settlement of the three-year-old Saska v. Metropolitan Museum lawsuit. The settlement is subject to court approval but museum said the changes will be implemented to coincide with the opening of The Met Breuer, a new satellite location on Madison Avenue at 75th Street. The Met Breuer will follow the same policy as the Met’s current two locations – its flagship on 5th Avenue and The Met Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. Admission at any location will give visitors access to all three venues that same day. General admission includes access to all special exhibitions at no additional charge. “The opening of The Met Breuer presented an ideal time to put this case behind us, and to refine the admission signs for our ‘Suggested Admission/Pay What You Wish’ policy,” Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell said via a statement. “All of our recent branding and marketing work has been aimed at simplifying our message of welcome to the public and emphasizing that we are accessible to the widest possible audience. The new admission signs will represent another step in this effort,” he said. The 2013 lawsuit claimed that the museum was barred from charging admission in any amount. The court ruled in the museum’s favor to dismiss the claims, which was affirmed on appeal last year. The settlement addresses the remaining claim that communications of its admissions policy were misleading, according to the museum. The original lawsuit was filed in 2012 and a class action suit was brought in 2013. The complaints cited the 1893 Act and Lease, which plaintiffs argued authorized state funding of the museum, provided that it “be kept open and accessible to the public free of charge throughout the year, including Sunday afternoons and two evenings each week.” The museum requested permission from the parks department to charge admission, helping to address a budget deficit. Last year, The Met ranked No. 30 in The NPT 100, a study of the largest nonprofits in the nation that derive at least 10 percent of revenue from public support. The museum reported total revenue of $660 million, including $254 million in public support and $269 million in investment income. The museum continues to break its own attendance records, with 6.3 million people visiting its three venues during the fiscal year that ended June 30. It was the fourth year in a row that attendance exceeded six million and the highest since admission statistics started being tracked more than 40 years ago.