Active-duty military personnel and their families looking for something to do this summer are in luck. More than 2,000 museums nationwide are offering free admission through Labor Day, thanks to the Blue Star Museums program.
Wendy Clark is the Director of Museums, Visual Arts and Indemnity for the National Endowment for the Arts. She said museums can ease some of the difficulties that come along with the relocation process for family members of active-duty personnel.
“We find that a lot of times in the summer, families are experiencing a change of station, so they might be relocating to a community where they don’t yet really feel at home,” Clark said. “Museums are great cultural hubs and great community centers that make people feel welcome.”
It is a collaboration between the NEA, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and museums nationwide.
Zoos, aquariums and wildlife hospitals are among the many participants. Children’s museums are also highlighted, as helping the youngest family members is one of the initiative’s main goals.
“We discovered that there were just millions of children of those deployed, so it was really founded with the idea of helping the children of the active duty and deployed officers and soldiers,” Clark said.
She added that appealing to children not only has the benefits of easing relocation, but also creates a new generation of museum visitors.
“I think what museums have found is that even though they are making financial commitments, what they’re really doing is building future museum-goers and future members of their institutions that will help sustain them,” Clark said.
Last year, 856,000 military personnel and family took advantage of this opportunity nationwide, according to Clark.
So far, 82 museums in Florida are taking part, including five museums in Tampa, three in St. Petersburg, and others in Lakeland, Sarasota, Oldsmar and Ocala. A detailed list of participating museums can be found at https://www.arts.gov/national/blue-star-museums#!FL.
Members currently serving in the United States Military must provide a Geneva Convention common access card, a DD Form 1173 ID card or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card to qualify for free admission. The military ID holder may bring up to five family members. There is no limit to the number of museums families can attend.