The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is confronting the fact that some families cannot afford to enrich their children, and responding in a positive and inclusive way.
A new electronics benefits transfer discount program at Boston Children’s Museum is allowing families on government subsidies to show their EBT cards and pay just $2 for museum admission, according to The Boston Globe Monday. This is the first time such a program has been approved by a Massachusetts cultural institution, which means the state is not only recognizing the beneficial role that museums play in child development, but also taking steps to ensure that the benefits will be shared. The plan came about when museum officials met with residents in low-income areas and found that the residents expressed deep interest in visiting the museum, but that the demographic of Boston residents who receive government subsidies to supplement their household incomes largely stayed away from museums like the Children’s Museum, which charges $14 for admission, according to the Globe.
Realizing that these discounts, which included half-price days for library cardholders, were failing to attract the lower-income demographic, museum officials decided the EBT system was the best way to attempt to attract more visitors and make the benefits of their museum more widespread regardless of income. So far the experiment has been successful: Since the program was implemented five months ago, over 1,160 visitors have used the EBT discount, and many of these visitors say they would not have otherwise come to the museum, according to the Globe.
This is a strong step in the right direction towards bridging a number of social gaps apparent in the state of Massachusetts. First, the plan of action ensures that all members of the Boston community are able to enjoy cultural institutions like the Children’s Museum, which offers a stimulating environment of learning for its young visitors and a haven for parents wanting their kids to be educated and involved. Second, it allows children from lower-income families — who tend to grow up in lower-income areas and often go to school at under-served schools — to have the opportunity for cultural enrichment in the same ways as their more affluent counterparts.
Museums provide a crucial venue of education to cities and their suburbs. If museum officials want their institutions to have real meaning to the communities they serve, they need to make sure all members of the communities can take part. Hopefully other museum institutions will join in the EBT efforts. For general social progress and advancement, it is extremely important to make access to cultural, historical and educational enrichment affordable to all.