Buried somewhere in the membership pages on the web sites of many small art museums and cultural centers in the U.S. and Canada, usually somewhere halfway down the page of museum membership levels, is a little perk that can sometimes make a higher level museum membership into a great deal.
Over 300 smaller, “regional” museums, most of them art museums or similar cultural institutions, have made agreements to offer reciprocal membership privileges to the members of other participating museums through the North American Reciprocal Museum Program (NARM).
If, like me, you’re an inveterate museum goer, and if, like me, you’ve discovered the treasures to be found in small regional art museums in the U.S., this can be a terrific deal, particularly if the museum you get your membership from does not ask for too high a membership level for access to the reciprocal agreement status.
There is a list of participating museums here, that is linked to the sites of the museums. You can find a museum you might be inclined to join and check out their membership pages for details on their required membership level for the “perk” of the NARM sticker on your membership card.
You don’t have to join a museum in your area, most museums will gladly accept members from other states (particularly these days), and the price of the membership level varies widely. Some ask over $300, others considerably less.
Each museum also usually has a brief description of the program and it’s benefits (and also usually offer additional membership benefits at the level required). Many of them offer a downloadable PDF of the participating museum list.
The best deal I’ve found is at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa, a museum I’m inclined to be a member of anyway. They only ask for a $100 “Donor Level” membership to get the NARM sticker added to your membership card.
You can look over the list of participating museums, calculate how often you’re likely to visit some of them, and see if the cost is worth it. For me it pays for itself a couple of times over, as there are a number of museums that I visit in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and New York that are on the list. If you’re in an area where travel to other regional museums is more difficult, it may not be as viable.
The reciprocal membership includes basic membership admission and gift shop discount privileges at the participating museums.
You may want to check the notes at the bottom of the list, however, as there are a few restrictions between certain museums (usually in the same area).
I like museum memberships anyway. They not only help support the museums and give you benefits like members’ previews and bookstore discounts, but they give you a sense of freedom about visiting frequently and dropping in on a whim, without reservations about spending enough time to make the cost of admission worthwhile.
Add to that the impetus to explore other museums on the list that are within reach or available when you travel, and you have a terrific bit of inspiration in your pocket in the form of the NARM sticker on your museum membership card.
(Image above, left to right: Brandywine River Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Sackler Gallery, Baltimore Art Museum, Montclair Museum, James A. Michener Art Museum, Newark Museum, Laguna Art Museum.)