The declining fortunes of the Creation Museum

I have not been to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Ken Ham’s monument to his belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Traveling all the way there and spending $30 to see things that are palpably ridiculous did not seem to be to be a good way of spending time or money.

But ever since its big launch, I was curious about the sustainability of the entire project. Most major museums do not consist of static displays. They also house researchers who update things according to the latest evidence. Thus museums are dynamics institution that one can visit over and over again and find something new. But if you are committed to the idea that everything must conform to the Bible, then you are pretty much stuck showing the same thing and that cannot be good for the kind of repeat business that museums depend upon.

And so it seems to have come to pass. This article by Mark Joseph Stern about the museum is interesting for two reasons. One is because he has had the stomach to go through their literature that explains their curious weird world view.

But he also points out that the predictable problem of declining attendance seems to occurring, putting in doubt Ken Ham’s grandiose plans to build a replica of the Ark as a follow-up.

But there’s trouble in Ham’s creationist paradise. In 2012, the Creation Museum reported a 10 percent decline in attendance from the previous year, and its parent group, Answers in Genesis, posted a 5 percent drop in revenue. That continues a four-year slump and a new low for the museum at 280,000 total visitors last year.

The museum’s vice president blames the downward spiral on the recession, but the decline has only worsened as the economy has recovered. Gas prices, the museum claims, might also be cutting into attendance, because 70 percent of visitors arrive from out of town. It’s true that fossil fuels—which are, on average, several hundred million years older than Ken Ham’s version of the Earth—have risen in price over the past several years, perhaps dissuading potential visitors.

There could be another explanation, though. A spectacle like the Creation Museum has a pretty limited audience. Sure, 46 percent of Americans profess to believe in creationism, but how many are enthusiastic enough to venture to Kentucky to spend nearly $30 per person to see a diorama of a little boy palling around with a vegetarian dinosaur? The museum’s target demographic might not be eager to lay down that much money: Belief in creationism correlates to less education, and less education correlates to lower income. Plus, there’s the possibility of just getting bored: After two pilgrimages to the museum, a family of four would have spent $260 to see the same human-made exhibits and Bible quote placards. Surely even the most devoted creationists would consider switching attractions for their next vacation. A visit to the Grand Canyon could potentially be much cheaper—even though it is tens of millions of years old.

Even allowing for the durability of young Earth creationist beliefs in the US, as a purely business venture I really cannot see a long-term future for this museum.


  1. left0ver1under says

    It’s not the first time overly ambitious religious twaddle failed on the open market. Fundy christians tried building a Disneyland-style theme park called “Heritage USA” which made money for a while, but went bankrupt within eleven years (1978-1989).

    It’s funny how those who claim not to worship mammon try to turn everything into gold.

  2. Jared A says

    There’s more to it, too. My brother went out of curiosity and reported back some interesting things. He said that interpreted as a propaganda piece it is extremely well done. It uses violent and abusive language and metaphor to constantly push its message that the world is a horrible, dangerous, evil, nasty place, and that the only way to protect yourself is to choose religion over naturalism. Not any religion, either, but a very specific Ken-Ham-brand of religion that values violence and human sacrifice above everything.

    Again, it pushes this message by essentially traumatizing and emotionally abusing the visitors via diorama. As you might expect, this isn’t exactly “fun”, and according to my brother most of the wide-eyed christian families came out pretty shell-shocked.

    As a propaganda tool I guess it is pretty effective, but to make money I think it is a bad choice. Who would want to go back to that?


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