Exhibition Costs, Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

2011 Museum Exhibition Cost Survey Results

17 Comments 18 July 2011

Thank you all for participating in the “2011 Museum Exhibition Survey”.   59 people responded to the survey, between June 27, 2011 and July 18, 2011.

The majority of the exhibition responses were History Museums (30.5%), Science Centers (27.1%), Children’s Museums (16.9%) and Traveling Exhibitions (11.9%).  The majority of the responses are for exhibition between 1000 square feet and 5000 square feet (67.9% total).  The per square foot costs were grouped in three ranges $25-$75 per square foot (25.5% total), $100-$150 per square foot (30.6% total), $250-$350 per square foot (25.5% total).  I was pleased to see the high percentage of Project Managers and Museum Directors that responded (39 respondents or 66.1%), both roles are the most familiar with exhibition costs.

The surprises of the survey.  I was surprised by the lack of responses from Art Museums, we only received two respondents regarding Art exhibitions, that may have to do with the audience of this blog. Exhibitions were designed “In house” (52.6%), I was not aware that so many museums still have staff exhibition designers, most of the news I have been receiving has been of layoffs, I was pleased to see this high percentage of “in house” exhibition design.  It is hard to beleive that only (15.3%) of museum exhibitions are still designed in house, when I started in museums in 1980s, close to 100% of exhibitions were fabricated by museum staff.  This appears to be a trend of keeping exhibition maintenance staff and augmenting the staff with contracted exhibition fabricators.  I was surprised by the (40%) of exhibition design costs in the 25%-30% range, that is higher then expected.  I was similarly surprised by the (37.5%) of “in house” design budget in the range of 30%.

Survey Result:

The average 6000 square foot History Museum, Science Center, Children’s Museum and Traveling exhibitions are $204 per square foot with 17% spent on research, design and exhibit development.

1. Type of Exhibition ?

Natural History Museum – 0 respondents
Aquarium – 2 respondents
Science Center – 16 respondents
Corporate Museum – 1 respondents
Natural History Museum – 3 respondents
Out Door Exhibition – 0 respondents
Traveling Exhibition – 7 respondents
Visitor Center  – 0 respondents
Children’s Museum  – 10 respondents
Art Museum Exhibition – 2 respondents
History Museum – 18 respondents

2. Exhibition Square Footage ? Square footage is length times width i.e. 100′ x 40′ = 4000 square feet

4000 square feet – 2 responses
25000 square feet – 4 responses
500 square feet – 5 responses
10000 square feet – 5 responses
20000 square feet – 5 responses
1500 square feet – 6 responses
2000 square feet – 6 responses
1000 square feet – 7 responses
5000 square feet – 9 responses
3000 square feet – 10 responses

3. Price per square foot ?
Price per square foot is total cost divided by square footage, i.e. $1,000,000 ÷ 4000 sq. ft. = $200 per square foot
Please round up

$25 per square foot – 5 respondents
$50 per square foot – 5 respondents
$75 per square foot – 5 respondents
$100 per square foot – 9 respondents
$150 per square foot – 9 respondents
$200 per square foot – 2 respondents
$250 per square foot – 6 respondents
$300 per square foot – 6 respondents
$350 per square foot – 3 respondents
$400 per square foot – 2 respondents
$450 per square foot – 4 respondents
$500 per square foot – 1 respondents
$550 per square foot – 0 respondents
$600 per square foot – 2 respondents
$650 per square foot – 0 respondents
$700 per square foot – 0 respondents

4. What was your role on the project ?

Project Manager – 27 responses
Museum Director  – 12 responses
Designer  – 8 responses
Exhibit Developer  – 8 responses
Curator – 4 responses

5. Was the exhibition designed “in house” using museum personnel ? or using freelance designer(s)

“In house” using Museum Staff – 30 responses
Using freelance Designer(s) – 27 responses

NOTE: (2) two respondents skipped the question

6. Was the exhibition fabricated “in house” using museum staff? or using contracted fabricators? or a mix of “in house” and contracted fabricators?

“In house” using museum staff fabricators – 9 responses
Contracted fabrication – 25 responses
A mix of “in house” and contracted fabricators – 25 responses

7. What percentage of the exhibition was spent on research, design and exhibit development?
“A $1,000,000 exhibition spent $100,000 on research, design and exhibit fabrication i.e. (100,000÷1,000,000) x 100=10%”
Round up


5% Design Costs – 10 respondents
10% Design Costs – 10 respondents
15% Design Costs – 7 respondents
20% Design Costs – 9 respondents
25% Design Costs – 10 respondents
30% Design Costs – 11 respondents

NOTE: (2) two respondents skipped the question

Science Center Costs Per Square Foot:

Science Center $100 per square foot – 1 respondent
Science Center $300 per square foot – 2 respondent
Science Center $350 per square foot – 1 respondent
Science Center $400 per square foot – 1 respondent
Science Center $600 per square foot – 1 respondent

Children’s Museum’s Costs Per Square Foot:


Children’s Museum $50 per square foot – 1 respondent
Children’s Museum $100 per square foot – 1 respondent
Children’s Museum $150 per square foot – 1 respondent
Children’s Museum $250 per square foot – 1 respondent

History Museum’s Costs Per Square Foot:


History Museum $50 per square foot – 1 respondent
History Museum $100 per square foot – 1 respondent
History Museum $150 per square foot – 1 respondent
History Museum $250 per square foot – 1 respondent
History Museum $350 per square foot – 1 respondent
History Museum $400 per square foot – 1 respondent

Was the exhibition designed “in house” using museum personnel ? or using freelance designer(s)? What percentage of the exhibition was spent on research, design and exhibit development? “A $1,000,000 exhibition spent $100,000 on research, design and exhibit fabrication i.e. (100,000÷1,000,000) x 100=10%” Percentage of Budget Spent on Design, Round up

(8) eight responses of  “in house” museum personnel on research, design and exhibit development:

5% – 2 respondents
15% – 2 respondents
20% – 1 respondents
30% – 4 respondents

(10) ten responses of freelance designer(s)? on research, design and exhibit development:

10% – 4 respondents
20% – 2 respondents
25% – 2 respondents
30% – 2 respondents

  • Anonymous

    I have updated a couple of the charts to make them more understandable. u00a0I have also added au00a0synopsisu00a0of the survey data.

  • Phil Katz

    Any chance of adding a chart that plots cost per square foot against total size of exhibition? That would help us to see whether larger exhibits are more or less expensive per square foot than smaller ones. (In other words, do we tend to see economies or perhaps diseconomies of scale as exhibits get bigger? And could this lead to an optimal size equation — i.e., a point where, other things being equal, each additional square foot of exhibit becomes an economic drag?)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1339291760 Rebecca Shreckengast

    I am glad to see that museum design staff are still at the helm in about half of their museums. I have worked as both an exhibition designer at a consultancy and also in-house, at a museum; both situations have their pluses and minuses relative to the resulting exhibition. u00a0The main difference I see between the two is the ability for the staff designer to use their own audience to iteratively test exhibits before they are finalized and installed on the floor. When working with a consultancy on an exhibit with lots of interactivity, be sure to allocate funds for prototyping (not just mockup or sample reviews) and visitor testing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1339291760 Rebecca Shreckengast

    Is it true that Art museums tend to use architects rather than museum exhibit design firms when they go out of house?

  • Pingback: Interactivate » Blog Archive » Exhibition Costs – constants and variables - Museums, culture, science and society

  • Regan Forrest

    Hi Mark,nnGreat post – thanks for pulling this kind of info together.nnMy observations are posted here: http://reganforrest.com/2011/07/exhibition-costs-constants-and-variables/nnI'm particularly surprised at the longevity of $2000 / sq.m. (sorry I’m a metric person) as a ballpark figure for exhibition budgets.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Regan,Thank you for the nice write up! I was also surprised by the stability of the costs; It still seems that $150-$350 is the norm for exhibitions. I had put together; http://museumplanner.org/how-much-do-exhibits-cost/ prior to the survey and the estimates still hold true, if not on the high side.
    -Mark

  • Anonymous

    Sad but true, many Art Museums “trust” architects more than museum exhibition designers. A side effect is curators are more likely to hire an exhibition designer than museum management.
    -Mark

  • Anonymous

    Hi Phil, I learned more from this post than any other post (most of what I learned was about how to make pretty pie charts and Survey Monkey). This survey was not set up for a comparison of small exhibition costs vs large exhibition costs. When I do the 2012 Survey I will be sure to ask that question. My sense is there is not any savings from larger exhibitions, my experience is much smaller exhibitions (500 sq. ft.) tend to be more expensive compared to a similar larger exhibition.
    -Mark

  • Anonymous

    Hi Regan, Great write up! I believe you mean $200USD per square foot (not $2000USD) in your blog post.
    -Mark

  • Phil Katz

    I’d be happy to talk with you off-line about ways to refine the 2012 version (and, perhaps, pull some more detail from the data you collected this year). I run the research program at AAM.

  • Madak2004

    i will like an estimated cost of setting up a University Art Museum and possible sample museum building plans
     

  • Ray Yu

    Can you give me some insight on the costs for setting up a 1 million gal Aquarium and Research Center with sample main and interactive secondary exhibits, labs, classrooms, research library, data center, conference rooms and auditoriums with cafe.  And if I said that I wanted this to be state of the Art or Next Generation, how much would that add?  If the Max height is under 40 ft, how much land would be required?   

  • Mark dickson

    Hi Mark, I was wondering if you could clarify the 200/sq ft number.  was that for an out of house production, inhouse production or a blend.  If it was for an inhouse prduction did it include the cost of staffing?

    Thanks

  • Louise_clark

    Great round up
    I would be intersted to know how many institutions have a workshop on site which enables ‘dirty’ work such as timber planing, drilling, painting to be done on site.  Growing trend seems to be to have external fabricators – does this negate the need for in house technicians and workshop spaces?

  • Goolrick Interpretive Group

    This question re staffing costs (i.e., professional services costs) seems to me to be absolutely critical. The study’s numbers are far lower per square foot than what the professional design/fabrication industry (of which I am a part) knows to be the actual cost!!

  • Gary Ino

    Great work. The data is interesting. Thanks for posting.

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