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This Museum Was the World’s Most-Visited in 2016

According to a new report ranking the most popular international museums

(Shizhao/Wikimedia Commons)
smithsonian.com

Anyone who has elbowed their way through crowds at the Met, or the Louvre, or the Tate knows that beloved international museums can get pretty busy. But which museum is the world’s most popular? A recently published report lists 20 institutions that drew the highest number of visitors in 2016, as the Press Association writes. And the top spot was claimed by the National Museum of China in Beijing.

The report, produced by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the engineering firm AECOM, ranks the world’s major theme parks, water parks, and museums. The National Museum of China topped the list of the 20 most-frequented museums, having brought in 7,550,000 visitors in 2016. The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., trailed in at a close second with 7.5 million visitors. The Louvre nabbed the third spot with 7.4 million attendees.

According to the report, three factors drove the National Museum of China to the number one spot: “sheer population size, free admission, and being in a major tourist destination city.”

London and D.C. tied for the most museums on the list, with each city boasting four of the world’s most popular institutions: the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum in London; and the National Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of American History. The latter three D.C. museums are part of the Smithsonian Institution.

While all of the museums on the list are heavy-hitters in terms of attendance rates, some of the institution’s numbers have fluctuated rather dramatically in recent years. The Louvre, for instance, ranked high on the TEA’s list, but its numbers fell from 8.7 million visitors last year to 7.4 million visitors this year—a change of 14.9 percent. Attendance rates at Disneyland Paris also dropped by 14 percent, which the report attributes to a downturn in tourism to “economic and political events” as well as last summer’s floods in Paris.

Politics also affected the National Palace Museum in Taiwan, which ranked 12th on the list. Attendance rates were down by nearly 12 percent this year, which the report writes is likely due to a significant decrease in tourists from China, which froze relations with Taiwan after the country’s 2016 presidential election.

Of course, a good exhibition can do wonders for a museum’s attendance rates. The Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow grew its number of visitors by nearly half, in part due to two popular exhibitions—one on the Romantic-era Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky, another on portraits borrowed from the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Overall, however, museum attendance rates have been relatively stable over the past few years, the report states. With their fascinating collections of art, artifacts, and all other manner of cultural and scientific relics, the venerable institutions named in the report are a consistent draw for locals and tourists alike. 

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in New York magazine, Flavorwire, and Women in the World, a property of The New York Times.

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