Childless residents no longer welcome in Chicago's museums

OK, so my thread title is a bit hyperbolic, but I’m steamed, so bear with me…

The background: the Chicago Public Library system used to have a fantastic partnership with nearly all Chicago-area museums. The program enabled city residents (with library cards) to check out passes to individual museums that provided free admission to up to four people. There were restrictions of course, but they were all reasonable – limited quantities, first-come-first-serve, short lending periods, steep late fines, etc – and helped ensure smooth and fair operation.

It was great. Sure there was no guarantee that your branch would have a pass available at any given moment for the museum you wanted to see – good luck finding a pass for a popular museum in the summer – but a savvy local could still get great benefit from the program. My wife and I are young, cultured (we like to think!), and can’t afford many museum visits at full-price admission. So good for us!

Except no. Not anymore. Not for us. See, because we’re childless.

The program very quietly changed on June 1st. We saw no coverage in the local press, just a small sign in our local library that indicated something was afoot. The program is now the new “Kids Museum Passports” program:

The key phrase, sprinkled all over the above page: "Groups must include at least one child under 18 for the pass to be valid."

Well dammit. I know that I have no inherent rights to free museum passes. I know that I should be thankful for the free admissions in the past and move on. But, well, dammit it again. Is it unreasonable for me to be upset?

Well, if they allowed groups with no kids, they’d have to name the passes something else.

The name didn’t actually change recently: see this blurb from the Reader in 2008 using the “Kids Museum Passport” name. So apparently it’s always been child-oriented, and they just decided to change the rules to emphasize this aspect more.

well … surely you know a rockin teenager or an amiable second grader you can borrow/ invite along?

When you get to the museum, ask a family in line next to you if you can buy admission for one of their kids to go through the entrance with you; you’ll be within their view the whole time. Win-win. Kids’ admissions are cheap enough that you’re still getting a great deal.

Once upon a time, museums located on Park District property (which is most of the majors) were required to have one free day a week as a sort of payment for the use of the land.

Around ten years ago, the law was changed to allowing fifty-two free days per year, instead. The museums generally clustered them in the least-visited times, such as weekdays during the winter.

When they started increasing admission prices dramatically, they were pressured into a compensatory concession for city residents (that is, the taxpayers supporting the parks). This is typically a buck or two off on basic admission (of $15 or so; no concession on extras such as special exhibits or IMAX shows).

I think that they would do better in the long run to be more generous where basic admission is concerned.

First, that fits better with their education and outreach missions. Second, like the airlines and cruise lines, they can make the real revenue from the extras.

I know it doesn’t address your initial complaint, and I get your frustration, but maybe it’s time to buy a membership or two? Not free, but you can use it any time and often, if you want, and it will probably include at least some of the extras.

Dude, this is what young cousins, nephews, nieces and friends kids are for.

If you are visiting a museum located on Park District land and you live in the city you are entitled to a discounted entrance fee.

My gf and I have used the passes in the past as well. We are bummed that we can’t anymore but if more kids go, hey, that’s a good thing.

PS, El Famous Burrito, I’ve been eating at the Clark St. location since 1986! They have the best fresh salsa in Chicago IMHO. I don’t know why the other locations don’t have the same recipe, it’s so much better.

Seems to me that the purpose of the passes has always been to get more kids to go to museums.

It seems that the original conditions weren’t tight enough, and most likely, families were missing out to folks like the OP that got to the passes first.

So they’ve tightened the rules.

I do see potential for a “rent a kid” franchise…

I am an adult with Alzheimer. I am so scared. I have never been able to hold a regular job or do anything useful my entire adult life. Susie Perkowitz

Beaten like a red headed rent-a-kid.