NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News has received a $10 million endowment — the largest individual gift in the museum’s almost 90-year history.
The museum announced the gift in a news release Thursday, saying the endowment will support the museum’s $1 admission initiative and ensure that admission price stays the same long-term.
The endowment was given by the Batten Foundation. The first $5 million will be given in 2020, then the remainder will be on a matching basis. The museum will need to raise money to match the gift before the full $10 million is released.
The museum lowered admission cost to $1 to emphasize its belief that — through the water — the world is connected and therefore “one.”
“Our Museum team is saying, through $1 Admission, that we are here to serve everyone in our community, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, socioeconomic status – all of the ways in which we sometimes feel different than others. Simply put, we can all trace our heritage back to the water and that makes us all connected, unique together, as one human race,” said Howard Hoege, museum president and CEO.
Lowering the admission price reduces barriers members of the public might have in visiting the museum and learning about those connections to the world’s water and other people, the museum said.
“In August 2016, The Mariners’ Museum lowered admission to one dollar for the month. The experiment yielded a dramatic increase in the diversity of people visiting the Museum, in the number of kids present in the galleries, and in overall visitation numbers. Because of the success and positive results, the Museum continued $1 Admission for each of the next two summers before permanently adopting the low entry fee in November of 2018,” the release said.
The museum has seen a 19 percent increase in admissions since August 2016.
The Batten Foundation was prompted to make the endowment donation following the death of Tom Hunnicutt, a former member of the museum’s Board of Trustees. Both Hunnicutt and Frank Batten Sr. served together on the board and were friends through their love of sailing.
“The Batten Foundation makes this commitment, in large part, to honor that friendship and the decades of service and leadership that Tom Hunnicutt provided The Mariners’ Museum,” the release said.