Reciprocal Admission and Museum Memberships

How often do you visit local museums? Have you ever considered joining your favorite museum as a member? And did you know about one of the best benefits of museum membership — reciprocal admission?

Recently, during a trip to Peloton Studios New York and after walking the High Line, we decided to spend time at the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a New York City museum so I wasn’t prepared for the admission sticker shock. It cost us each $30 to get in or $60 for the day.

On the other hand, we could join the Whitney Museum as members for $120 and get free admission for the whole year, plus free admission to its reciprocal museum members. Just two trips to the Whitney, which we could easily do in a weekend, and membership would pay for itself.

Sign us up.

edward hopper paintings whitney
Edward Hopper paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

What is reciprocal admission with a museum membership?

Reciprocal museum admission refers to membership programs that allow access to multiple participating cultural institutions through a single membership. For example, now that we live in Maine full time, it would make sense to become a member of the Portland Museum of Art.

For starters, per-person admission to the museum on a single day is $20 — not that much less than the Whitney. Joining, on the other hand, as a family cost $115.

Reciprocal admission networks

Then there is the access to reciprocal museum networks. As it turns out the Portland Museum of Art or PMA participates in three:

  • NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum Association)
  • MARP (Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program)
  • ROAM (Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums)

How reciprocal admission works

Here’s a basic explanation of the reciprocal admission concept.

  • Museums partner and form reciprocal networks like NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum Association) or regional alliances.
  • When you purchase a membership at one participating museum, you gain privileges at other museums in the network.
  • This often includes free general admission for the member and a companion, or discounted “member rates” at all reciprocal locations.
  • Some reciprocal networks provide access to hundreds or even thousands of museums worldwide.
  • You simply show your valid membership card from the “home” institution at any “reciprocal” museums to receive benefits there.

Let me outline each of these reciprocal museum programs, organizations and associations, plus where you can find participating places to go for free once you have an affiliated museum membership.

NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum Association)

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NARM institutions includes more than 1,300 different arts, cultural, and historical institutions in the United States, Bermuda, Canada, the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

With that many member institutions, that’s simply too many to list. However, here is what I can tell you: you will find at least one NARM museum or historical site in each of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

NARM categories

Here are the museum categories you’ll find in NARM:

  • Anthropology
  • Aquarium
  • Arboretum/Gardens
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture & Design
  • Art
  • Children’s
  • Craft
  • Cultural
  • Family
  • Hall of Fame
  • Historic Site
  • Historical Society
  • History
  • Military
  • Natural History
  • Nature Center
  • Performance & Design
  • Photography
  • Planetarium
  • Science & Technology
  • Specialty
  • Transportation
  • Zoo

ROAM (Reciprocal Organization of Associated Museums)

ROAM includes cultural institutions in the U.S. and Canada, plus the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Mexico and Panamá. It’s a smaller number than NARM but still impressive.

U.S. locations

One, you’ll find at least one property in each of these U.S. locations:

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Canadian locations

Two, ROAM covers museums in eight Canadian provinces. They are:

  • Alberta
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Québec
  • Saskatchewan

And, three, not only do you get free admission for two, but also you’ll enjoy discounts at the museum shop, restaurant (if there is one) and member pricing for special events.

MARP (Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program)

The Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program is the smallest of the three. As such, here is a current list of participating places.


  • Crocker Art Museum
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • San Jose Museum of Art
  • Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles
  • UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)


  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College


  • The Bruce Museum


  • The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota
  • The Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach
  • Pérez Art Museum, Miami
  • Vero Beach Museum


  • High Museum of Art


  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago


  • The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields


  • New Orleans Museum of Art


  • Portland Museum of Art


  • The Baltimore Museum of Art


  • The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
  • Worcester Museum of Art


  • Walker Art Center

New Hampshire

  • Currier Museum of Art

New Jersey

  • Montclair Art Museum
  • New Jersey State Museum
  • Newark Museum

New York

  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
  • Brooklyn Museum
  • The Parrish Art Museum
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum


  • Cincinnati Art Museum
  • Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus



  • Knoxville Museum of Art


  • Amon Carter Museum of American Art
  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


  • Chrysler Museum of Art
  • Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art


  • Milwaukee Art Museum


  • Art Gallery of Ontario
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Royal Ontario Museum
  • The Vancouver Art Gallery

Other reciprocal admission programs

Your access to these networks mentioned above depends on your level of membership as is the case with many museums. Not so with the Whitney. That’s because the Whitney participates in just one reciprocal program and it is neither NARM, MARP or NOAM.

Whitney Museum of American Art reciprocal program

looking out on art terrace whitney museum
Outdoor art terrace, Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

In fact, the Whitney does not seem to participate in a named reciprocal program. Instead, when you join, like we did, you’ll find a list of reciprocal institutions on the museum website. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Maine museums on the list, but plenty of other ones in New England we’d love to visit. a number of these cultural institutions appear in my article about outdoor art destinations.

Here is an alphabetical list of museums affiliated with the Whitney reciprocal admission program, plus where they’re located, if it isn’t obvious in their name.

Reciprocal museums

  • The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT
  • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh (including the Carnegie Museum of Art and The Andy Warhol Museum)
  • Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston
  • Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA
  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
  • Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Spain
  • Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany
  • The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • Serpentine Gallery, London, England
  • Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, NY
  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
andy warhol museum pittsburgh
Lobby of Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art reciprocal program

You’ll notice that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) appears on the Whitney reciprocal list. And, not surprisingly, the Whitney appears on its reciprocal list. However, there are a number of other museums in the LACMA program.

List of museums

The following museums participate in the LACMA Reciprocal Museum Program:

  • Andy Warhol Museum
  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • The Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh)
  • The Cincinnati Art Museum
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • The Denver Art Museum
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts
  • The High Museum of Art (Atlanta)
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • The Saint Louis Art Museum
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • The Toledo Museum of Art
  • Vancouver Art Gallery
  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
  • Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, CT)
  • Walker Art Center (Minneapolis)
  • Whitney Museum of American Art (New York)
walker arts center minneapolis spoon and cherry
Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis. Photo credit: Checubus // Shutterstock.

Find a Children’s Museum Network

These reciprocal admission programs aren’t limited to art museums only. One network is devoted to children’s museums or museums that children would enjoy. It is called the ACM Reciprocal Network.

There are 200 museums participating in the network. They reciprocate 50% off general admission for up to six people. The museum member must be present for the discount to apply.

You’ll find a complete list of participating children’s museums on the ACM Reciprocal Network website. FYI, they range from the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia to the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo in California.

Final thoughts on the benefits of reciprocal admission and museum memberships

To recap, here are the key benefits of reciprocal admission and museum memberships:

  • Access to more cultural institutions for the price of one membership. With reciprocal programs, a single membership can provide free or discounted admission to thousands of other participating museums and attractions worldwide.
  • Increased value for money. Reciprocal memberships stretch membership dollars further by allowing visits to multiple venues without having to pay admission for each one. This provides better value for members.
  • Discovery of new places and exhibits. Reciprocal access encourages exploration of cultural sites beyond a member’s local area. It helps expose people to a broader range of art, history and knowledge.
  • Revenue and attendance boost for partner institutions. According to the Cuseum source, reciprocal programs increase revenue through attendance and memberships at partner sites. This benefits the cultural sector.
  • Convenience of not having to purchase individual tickets. Reciprocal privileges streamline the admission process, allowing members to simply show their membership card rather than pay at each location visited.

Of course, if I’ve missed a reciprocal museum program, please let me know. I hope you’ll find this article helpful the next time you want to visit some of the best museums around on vacation, a weekend away or any time.

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