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Da Vinci traveling exhibit drawing crowds

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Leonardo da Vinci can still draw a crowd.

“Da Vinci – The Genius” is calling the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science home until the end of July.

The museum reported Friday that since opening on Feb. 10, 7,886 people have visited, specifically to see the traveling exhibition.

And, the show has brought in $140,421 in revenue for the museum.

When you add in the $51,128 the museum took in for the month from regular visitors, its revenue for February totaled $191,549. This is compared to January’s revenue of $45,423.

“There hasn’t been a slow day since we opened,” said Margie Marino, museum director, during a board of trustees meeting Friday. “We learned a lot the first few weeks. The first Monday of the exhibit, we had 600 school children. We’ve had to become familiar with a new ticketing system. We’re trying to keep up with the demand.”

The Da Vinci exhibit contains two parts – “The Secrets of Mona Lisa” and “The Inventions.” More than 200 pieces are in the exhibit, and about 75 are large-scale or interactive models of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs.

Admission to the Da Vinci exhibit costs $22 and will get visitors into the museum’s planetarium for a sky show as well. Marino said that about 40 percent of those who purchase Da Vinci tickets are staying to see the planetarium show.

“We’re running full programs for the first time in ages,” she said of the planetarium. “We’ve never done that before, and it’s great to get museum visitors to see a different part of what we have to offer.”

The museum also has an online ticketing system, which Marino said has been working out great for the museum and visitors in spite of early concerns.

To handle the increased visitation at the Old Town-area museum, Marino has hired three temporary staffers – one maintenance, one security and one exhibit maintenance – costing $70,000.

“The cost of supplies is also going up,” she said. “The revenue is nice, but we’ll have to see what we actually net when it is said and done.”

Special programming that coincides with the Da Vinci exhibit is also selling out.

A First Friday event in February was held to introduce Da Vinci before the exhibit was installed, Marino said. It brought in 361 attendees.

“We’ve been able to plan a number of events that coincide with the exhibit,” Marino said. “We had a lecture in the DynaTheater recently, and there were only five seats left unfilled. Da Vinci is a bigger draw than we could have hoped for.”

While Da Vinci is pulling in big numbers, Marino said the museum is on track to match numbers it pulled in with “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,” which ran from March through October 2013.

But Marino points out that comparing the two exhibits is difficult, because the museum had to split the revenue with the company that owned the Titanic exhibit.

With Da Vinci, the museum was able to pay a $300,000 lease and keep all of the revenue.

And as far as visitors go, Marino said the exhibit is putting the museum on track to get back at nearly 250,000 visitors for the year. The number had fallen because for nearly a year the museum was only operating six days a week.

“In 2017, we didn’t crack 200,000 visitors,” Marino said. “This exhibit, as well as being open seven days a week, will put us back on track to meet our previous numbers.”

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