Detailed Findings & Methodology
A visit to a museum is among the earliest memories children have of family excursions — and among the most cherished. Many adults who bring their kids to iconic institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City that they frequented as children are revisiting fond memories of gazing on the various exhibits like prehistoric mammals and, of course, dinosaurs.
This first cultural experience might lead to visits to art galleries, where visitors become familiar with classical art from ancient Greece and Rome, Medieval and Renaissance paintings, works from the Dutch masters, the Impressionists, and contemporary artists.
Museums have evolved from viewing exhibits behind ropes and glass partitions to more interactive experiences that engage younger and older visitors alike. An example of this is the interactive presentation of Space Center Houston that gives one an idea of what it is like to live in a space station.
Museums have hosted traveling exhibits that have become media events, such as “Treasures of Tutankhamun” from Egypt that took the United States by storm in the late 1970s. Such major exhibits have created substantial financial windfalls for the institutions.
Many of the traditional museums on our list such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston are located in the Northeast. Going west, many of the institutions, though not necessarily blessed by the benefactors from the Gilded Age, have forged their own identity by celebrating the local culture. Among these places are the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Iowa, Idaho Potato Museum, and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Wyoming.
This is not to say museums don’t have latter-day captains of industry as benefactors. The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, was founded in 2005 by the Walton Family Foundation, the family that created retailing giant Walmart.
Other museums have been based on uniquely American contributions. If you are in Oklahoma, you might consider visiting the American Banjo Museum. In Ohio, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame celebrates the music genre that originated in the United States.
Regardless of what exhibits they display, museums elevate the spirit or are places of reflection and contemplation. And they all have a contribution to make to the American culture.
To select the best museum in each state, 24/7 Wall St. sifted through rankings of these institutions by various sources, considered the top museums from a listing for each state, observed annual attendance figures, and weighed visitor comments. Admission cost is based on general admission and many of these institutions are free. We also considered the unique experience of a particular museum, such as The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, for inclusion on our list.
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