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Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions: 2011

March 18, 201518 March 2015

Arts organizations (heritage, visual arts, orchestras)

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Starting with the 2011 data year, the Department of Canadian Heritage has assumed responsibility for surveying Canada’s heritage institutions (formerly a Statistics Canada survey). In 2011, a total of 1,269 not-for-profit heritage institutions responded to the survey, representing approximately “45% of the entire heritage sector” and “the largest sample to be measured in over 12 years”.

As was the case in the past, the survey covers heritage organizations such as art galleries, museums, historic sites, zoos, and botanical gardens. For the first time, organizations that are part of a larger institution, such as university-affiliated art galleries, are included in the results. Smaller organizations (i.e., total revenues below $50,000) were integrated into the survey in 2011. Unlike past surveys, only not-for-profit organizations were included in the survey frame.

With the change in survey responsibility, the survey itself was redesigned, with new information related to “volunteer hours, number of artefacts, exhibitions, online visits, and research requests handled”. Given the methodological changes, the report cautions that comparisons should not be made with previous iterations of the survey.

The total revenues of heritage organizations were estimated to be $1.74 billion in 2011. Total expenditures were $1.64 billion, resulting in an operating surplus of $97 million, or 5.5% of total revenues.

In 2011, government revenues accounted for one-half of the operating revenues of heritage organizations (exactly 50%). Earned revenues represented 35% of operating revenues, while private sector fundraising accounted for 14%. (Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

Almost one-half of the heritage organizations (48%) charge an admission fee. The average adult admission at these organizations was about $7 in 2011.

Staff compensation was by far the largest expenditure of heritage organizations in 2011, representing 43% of all expenditures. The organizations employed 11,500 people on a full-time basis in 2011 and another 16,731 on a part-time basis. Volunteers (95,900) outnumbered staff members by about a three-to-one ratio. Total volunteer work in heritage organizations was estimated at 6.1 million hours.

The heritage organizations received 45 million in-person visits and 140 million online visits in 2011. They presented 17,400 permanent exhibitions, created 7,600 new exhibitions, and held 294 million artefacts in their care.

Some key statistics for each type of not-for-profit heritage organization in 2011 follow.

Type of organization

Operating revenues

Operating expenses

Surplus / deficit as % of revenues

In-person visits

Not-for-profit heritage organizations in Canada in 2011

Art galleries

$361 million

$365 million


6.8 million

Museums (other than galleries)

$699 million

$660 million


21.5 million

Historic sites

$103 million

$100 million


5.9 million


$205 million

$202 million



Zoos and botanical gardens

$371 million

$315 million


9.9 million

On a provincial basis, Ontario-based not-for-profit heritage organizations accounted for $764 million in revenues (44% of the Canadian total). The revenues of Quebec-based organizations totalled $439 million in 2011 (25% of the Canadian total). Alberta-based heritage organizations had operating revenues of $159 million (9% of national revenues), while their British Columbia counterparts accounted for $156 million (also 9%). The data tables also contain information about the revenues of organizations in other provinces, as well as provincial data on expenses, surplus, employment, and attendance.

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