Museums do a lot more than preserve our heritage and educate us about history and scientific advancements.
The 562 museums in Minnesota generated $674 million in economic impact last year, according to a new study by University of Minnesota Extension researchers.
That figure includes $250 million in wages paid to an estimated 5,300 employees and $157 million in capital improvements.
The study found that Minnesota museums are a boon for the state's $11 billion tourism industry. Museum tourists generated $53 million in economic activity in 2011, and an estimated 1.7 million people visited museums outside of their home regions, each spending an average of $24.35.
Direct spending by museums had a ripple effect that also benefited the state's construction, restaurant, health care, and real estate industries.
Brigid Tuck, an Extension community economics educator and a lead researcher on the study, said in a statement that the economic impact of Minnesota's museums has never before been measured. Each of the state's 87 counties is home to at least one museum.
The timing of the study's release is no coincidence: May 2012 is the first "Minnesota Museums Month"-a collaboration among the state's museums that aims to raise awareness of the role that Minnesota museums play in the community. The designation serves as a statewide celebration of events and exhibits at local museums and is said to be the first month-long celebration of its kind in the nation. The museums intend for it to become an annual event.
University of Minnesota Extension-which conducted the study in partnership with the Minnesota Association of Museums and the University of Minnesota Tourism Center-surveyed Minnesota's museums and collected information about their operations, expenditures, and visitors. Forty-three percent responded.
University of Minnesota Extension is a 100-year-old partnership between the university and federal, state, and county governments. It aims to "extend" university resources to address critical public issues-including food and agriculture, communities, environment, youth, and families-and provide scientific knowledge and expertise to the public.