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Government of Canada Survey of Heritage Institutions: 2017

September 26, 201826 September 2018

Museums and heritage organizations

Department of Canadian Heritage

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Based on an online survey as well as data from the Canada Revenue Agency, this report summarizes national and provincial data on heritage institutions in 2015. Included in the results are art galleries, museums, archives, historic and heritage sites, zoos, and botanical gardens. This summary refers to the current version of the survey by its data year (2015), not the data collection year (2017).

The 1,820 not-for-profit heritage institutions captured in the data represent 68% of the estimated 2,700 not-for-profit organizations in the heritage sector. The data were collected in two ways: via Canadian Revenue Agency information for 1,392 heritage institutions that are registered charities; and from 981 respondents to an online survey (which had a response rate of 44%). Some heritage institutions were included in both methods, so the respondent counts add up to more than 1,820.

The total revenues of heritage organizations were estimated at $2.53 billion in 2015, a 29% increase from 2011 (figures have not been adjusted for inflation). Total expenditures were $2.39 billion (a 22% increase from 2011), resulting in an operating surplus equivalent to 5.3% of total revenues in 2015.

Government revenues accounted for exactly one-half of the operating revenues of heritage organizations in 2015 (50%). Earned revenues represented 36% of operating revenues, while private sector fundraising accounted for 14%. Between 2011 and 2015, earned revenues increased by 38%, private sector revenues by 16%, and government revenues by 15%.

As noted in the report, “roughly 50% of heritage institutions charged admission fees in 2015, which has been the status quo for the sector over the years. The average admission fee for an adult in 2015 was $9.91” a 30% increase from 2011 ($7.60).

The largest expenditure of heritage organizations in 2015 was staff compensation, representing 41% of total expenditures. The organizations had 12,520 full-time and 18,919 part-time workers in 2015, as well as 4,884 contract workers. Women represent two-thirds of full and part-time staffers (66%). Volunteers (115,657) outnumbered all paid workers by about a three-to-one ratio. Over 6.6 million hours were volunteered in Canadian heritage organizations in 2015.

The heritage organizations received over 75 million in-person visits and 203 million online visits in 2015. They presented over 15,000 permanent exhibitions and created 8,600 new exhibitions.

Survey results show that 38% of heritage institutions indicated that their facilities are less than adequate. Another 55% indicated that their facilities are either “good” (i.e., “adequate”) or “very good” (i.e., “fit for the future”), while 7% did not know. Among different types of heritage organizations, the proportion reporting less than adequate facilities was highest among museums (44%), followed by art galleries (35%), archives (32%), historic sites (29%), and zoos (28%).

Almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) indicated that they are planning on upgrading their facilities within the next three years, most commonly through improvements in visitor experience such as displays and exhibits (48%), aspects of their facilities such as visitor flow, accessibility, storage, or curatorial spaces (43%), and physical plant (e.g., HVAC, lighting) upgrades (34%).

Some key statistics for each type of not-for-profit heritage organization in 2015 follow.

The table below highlights key statistics for not-for-profit heritage organizations in all ten provinces and the three territories (collectively) in 2015. The report also provides provincial statistics by type of heritage organization.


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