I thought I would pass along a statistic that has been floating about for the past couple of days:
Our total number of visitors from January to April 2009 increased a whopping 69 percent over 2007! (We’re comparing against 2007 because the same period in 2008 had too many variables, including an extended building closure to construct the Library of Congress Experience.)
For the most part, the increases I have seen in any given month are solidly in the 20- to 40-percent range.
With the opening of “Night At the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” we have been receiving a new round of questions about the Library’s own prominent role in “National Treasure 2.“ In fact, we have heard the question “Where is the Book of Secrets?” so often from visitors that we have even included it in the FAQ section of one of our main brochures.
The magic of Hollywood has a way of rubbing off on the institutions that provide settings for movies. While the film doubtlessly played a role in the renewed public interest in the Library, I would wager that our outstanding exhibits are probably an even greater contributor.
In addition to the exhibits of the Library of Congress Experience, our Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition was a blockbuster by any measure. It helped drive an astonishing 125,000 visitors to the Thomas Jefferson Building in April 2009 — 32 percent higher than any previous month in the past three years (94,705 in June 2008). I’m told that attendance at Lincoln set a record for us, more than doubling the attendance of any other three-month exhibition at the Library of Congress.
It probably is not much of a stretch to say that the economy is also playing a role. There has been a relatively strong correlation between our visitor numbers and the unfortunately negative economic indicators, such as unemployment and the GDP. After all, we do not charge admission to any of our exhibits, events or programs.
I often tell people that one of my greatest challenges is ensuring that people know that, while we are Congress’s library, we are also America’s library. We are open and free for you to use and enjoy.
But it seems the word is starting to get out!