Traveling science exhibits

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Traveling Exhibits Major Players


Imagine Exhibitions, Premier Exhibitions, Siteline Productions, Evidence Design, Flying Fish Exhibits, and GSM Project are leading companies in creating small to mid-sized traveling exhibitions as well as permanent installations. Revenue information was not publicly available for any of these companies except Premier Exhibitions, and that information is nearly three years old. Additionally, locating pricing for an exhibit from any of these companies was not possible; it can be assumed that specialized consultations are required with each individual company to determine the estimated cost of the desired production.

Imagine Exhibitions

Imagine Exhibitions provides a diverse variety of traveling exhibits, and takes pride in accepting projects that might seem otherwise impossible to bring to life. Imagine Exhibitions creates traveling exhibits as well as permanent ones, and operates primarily out of Atlanta, Georgia. Currently, Imagine Exhibitions is responsible for 35 exhibits in worldwide locations, from museum projects like Speed: Science in Motion at Scitech in Perth, Australia, to those focused on popular culture, like Downton Abbey: The Exhibition. Celebrating over 25 years in business, Imagine Exhibitions offers a number of services in addition to just producing exhibitions, including the coordination of venues for the exhibits they product, as well as transport of materials, assembly, and disassembly of exhibits.

Major clients for Imagine Exhibitions include National Geographic, Space Center Houston, and the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Revenue information for Imagine Exhibitions was not publicly available, and pricing for their exhibitions was not available either; for pricing quotes for services, a consultation is needed.

Premier Exhibitions

Premier Exhibitions is considered a leading company in the development of "unique exhibitions for education and entertainment." Specializing in permanent as well as touring exhibits, Premier Exhibitions offers services in production, design, and development, as well as merchandising, staffing assistance, and assistance throughout the process of putting together a successful traveling exhibit, including the selection of locations for exhibits, and helping to select local partners in each area the exhibit will be traveling to. Premier Exhibitions has created installations for more scientific, education based projects like Bodies: The Exhibition, and those based more in entertainment, like SNL: The Experience.

Major clients of Premier Exhibitions include Brookfield Zoo and Museum of Broadcast Communications. Recent revenue information for Premier Exhibitions is not available publicly, but a 2015 report released for the company put their revenue at the time at roughly $29,390,000. Pricing for individual exhibitions was not available, and it is likely that a consultation is needed to determine exact rates.

Siteline Productions

Siteline Productions has over 30 years of experience as an "integrated Experience Design and Production company" and offers their services on a worldwide scale. Siteline Productions creates projects for a variety of categories, including the usual museum exhibits as well as sporting events, "press events, [and] popup shops." Siteline Productions is responsible for educational exhibits like Discover Navajo and the Declaration of Independence International Tour, sporting related events like Super Bowl City 2016, and entertainment exhibitions such as Pokemon International.

Major clients of Siteline Productions include the Special Olympics and Blizzard Entertainment. Revenue information for the company was not publicly available, and it is likely that a consultation is required to determine rates for exhibitions and other projects.

Evidence Design

Evidence Design is located in Brooklyn and has ten years of experience in "interactive exhibition development." Based on the locations of projects they have worked on in the past, it appears that Evidence Design currently only operates within the United States. Evidence Design has produced mainly science-related exhibits such as Dinosaur Hall and the Human Genome, but has additionally worked on more historical projects such as one for the Holocaust Center. Evidence Design works with an "extended team of partners" in order to develop exhibits they believe tell "memorable stories."

Major clients for Evidence Design include Harley-Davidson and the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. Revenue information for the company is not publicly available, and a consultation is likely required to determine exact pricing for exhibitions.

Flying Fish Exhibits

Flying Fish Exhibits is based in Australia with offices in China and North America, and specializes in "international touring exhibition services." In addition to consultation and planning services, Flying Fish Exhibits also offers assistance in developing the way an exhibition will be toured, with an emphasis on the international knowledge it has, boasting work experience on "6 continents". Flying Fish Exhibits has developed entertainment-centered exhibits such as Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited as well as science-based projects like Spiders: Life and Death.

Major clients of Flying Fish Exhibits include Discovery Place, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Living Oceans. Revenue for Flying Fish Exhibits was not publicly available, and for specific pricing and cost information, it is likely that a consultation is required.

GSM Project

GSM Project prides itself on creating an entire project from start to finish, and making it as easy as possible for their clients. Boasting thousands of completed projects on an international scale, GSM Project "maintain[s] three regional offices in Montreal, Dubai, and Singapore" in order to appropriately serve their global client base. GSM Project has received multiple awards over the years for their projects, which range from science and education based efforts such as The Cosmodome, to entertainment exhibits like Star Wars Identities.

Major clients for GSM Project include LucasFilm, Cirque du Soleil, and the Smithsonian Institute. Revenue information is not publicly available for GSM Project, and it is likely that cost and pricing information is available upon a consultation. In spite of not providing exact cost figures on their website, GSM Project does assert that their method of doing things will save their clients "a bundle of time and money."


Imagine Exhibitions, Premier Exhibitions, Siteline Productions, Evidence Design, Flying Fish Exhibits, and GSM Project are leading companies in creating small to mid-sized (and occasionally, quite large) traveling exhibitions as well as permanent installations. Revenue information is only publicly available for Premier Exhibitions, however this information is nearly three years old and likely not relevant to the company's current earnings. Additionally, none of the companies researched publicly provided any pricing models for their work, leading to the assumption that a consultation with the company of choice is required for any specific pricing.
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Traveling Exhibit Locations

The Franklin Institute offers the largest space of those listed with a 53,000 square foot space for traveling exhibits. They are currently featuring a Terracotta Warriors Exhibition but have also featured Jurassic World. The Royal Ontario Museum has the second largest space listed at 17,000 square feet with 17-feet high ceilings. This and the rest of my findings have been added to the attached spreadsheet.

Using the museum websites and press releases I was able to fill in the attached spreadsheet with the appropriate information. Some information including exhibition costs and revenue were not publicly available. Additionally, many of the museums did not specify the size of their available space. All of the museums have space for temporary or traveling exhibitions. American Museum of Natural History has space for temporary exhibitions though it is unclear from their website if they bring in other traveling exhibits or only use their own to fill the space.

Although some of the requested information was not publicly available, I was able to fill out the rest of the information in the appropriate fields on the spreadsheet.
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Traveling Exhibits - Additional Locations

I have added the following 8 additional locations in the U.S. and Canada that host traveling exhibits: Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Chicago Academy of Science Nature Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Constitution Center, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Canadian Museum of History, and Canadian Museum of Nature. I have completed the spreadsheet with all the required details.


I searched for additional 7 locations that weren't originally provided in the spreadsheet. For each location, I provided all the requested details in the spreadsheet where such details are available. I added 2 additional location each from Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and Canada.
Generally, most of the locations that offer traveling exhibitions didn't offer cost to exhibit or revenues for the exhibitor. However, they all invite those interested to contact them privately for such information. Where such information was available, I presented the information. Please note that cost to exhibit and other financial requirements for the locations in Canada are in Canadian dollars.


To wrap up, Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Chicago Academy of Science Nature Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, National Constitution Center, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Metropolitan Museum of Art, Canadian Museum of History, and Canadian Museum of Nature are additional locations in the U.S. and Canada that host traveling exhibits. You can access the completed spreadsheet here.

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Traveling Exhibit Production Costs

In Canada and the United States, the cost of producing a traveling exhibit is usually expressed in dollars per square foot. While recent per-square-foot cost estimates for the two countries could not be found in the public domain, historical values indicate that the cost could have grown from $56 per square foot in 2000 to $100-$400 per square foot in 2011. It is likely that design accounts for 20% to 25% of the exhibition budget. Key components of the traveling exhibition cost include the following: exhibit design, development, and fabrication; shipping; installation; climate control and handling of artifacts by couriers; storage; staffing, exhibit maintenance, and reporting of artifact condition; and strike or removal.


Our search for your requested information revealed that no recent studies have been done to determine the average cost of producing a traveling or touring exhibit for natural history museums or science centers in the United States and Canada. There were such studies in the past, but given that they were published more than five years ago, we could not ascertain if the costs provided in these studies are still relevant today. A report specific to United Kingdom traveling exhibitions was released last year, but as you will see below, the amounts indicated in the report do not seem applicable to the United States and Canada.

Enumerated below are our findings from the few resources we were able to find on the subject. We included, where available, the cost components and their corresponding amounts.

United States, 2016
According to an article published by museum news site Entertainment Designer in May 2016, "a host can incur fees up to $2 million dollars for a traveling exhibit — or even more."

United States, 2011
In 2011, Mark Walhimer, Managing Partner at New York-based Museum Planning, wrote about the cost of museum exhibitions. Walhimer, who claimed he had been preparing museum exhibition cost estimates since 1992, estimated that a traveling exhibition costs around $100 to $400 per square foot. According to him, requirements relating to audiovisuals, original exhibits, and interactivity largely dictate the cost, which is not yet inclusive of the following: lighting, floor and wall coverings, electrical requirements, HVAC, shipping, safety costs, back-of-house costs, furniture, fixture, and equipment costs, and staffing costs. He explained that the design fee that most design firms charge ranges from 20% to 25% of the exhibition budget. Of the design fee, around 25% to 50% is accounted for by graphic design fees. By phase, the design fee breaks down into concept development (15%), schematic design (30%), design development (40%), and final design (15%).

He conducted, in the same year, a survey of museums, including history museums, science centers, children's museums, and traveling exhibitions. Out of 59 respondents, 11.9% were from traveling exhibitions and 35.6% had an exhibition square footage of 3,000 to 5,000 square feet. Based on the survey, the resulting per-square-foot exhibition costs can be classified into three groups: $25-$75 (25.5%), $100-$150 (30.6%), and $250-$350 (25.5%). Around 37% of respondents said they spent 25% to 30% of the exhibition cost on research, design, and development.

United States and Canada, 2008
In October 2008, The White Oak Institute, a non-profit organization promoting innovation in the museum industry, presented to the Royal Alberta Museum the results of its 2005 survey of 27 museums in the United States and Canada. Of the 27 museums polled, 10 had a traveling exhibition square footage of 5,000 to less than 10,000 square feet, 9 had less than 5,000 square feet, and 8 had more than 10,000 square feet. Ten were science centers while 6 were national history museums.

Based on a sample of 14 respondents, the mean and median costs of a traveling exhibition were found to be $51 per square foot and $41 per square foot, respectively. Expense categories included in the survey were the following: annual lease fee budget, collateral materials, shipping, space preparation, special security, marketing, program materials, special events, speakers or performers, and others.

A sample of 8 revealed the average and median annual marketing costs to be $228,889 and $175,000, respectively. A sample of 12 revealed the average and median annual lease fee budgets among traveling exhibitions with square footage of at least 5,500 to be $304,000 and $350,000, respectively. Lastly, a sample of 10 revealed the average and median annual shipping costs among traveling exhibitions with square footage of at least 5,500 to be $56,000 and $40,000.

United States and Canada, 2002
In Smithsonian Institution's report "Exhibition Development and Implementation: Five Case Studies," which was published in August 2002, one of the case studies was "Vikings: The North American Saga," a traveling exhibit that opened at the National Museum of Natural History. From this museum, the exhibit traveled to the American Museum of Natural History, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and the Science Museum of Minnesota. The traveling exhibit had a budget of $2.5 million, but how large the exhibit was in terms of area was not disclosed.

According to the Smithsonian Institution's report "The Costs and Funding of Exhibitions," which was published in August 2002, the median direct cost of Smithsonian traveling non-art exhibitions in fiscal year 1999-2000 was $56 per square foot. On the other hand, the median direct cost of non-Smithsonian traveling non-art exhibitions was $107 per square foot. A total of 209 exhibitions was included in the study, but how many of these exhibitions were traveling non-art exhibitions was not specified in the report. Four exhibition categories, namely, venue-only temporary exhibitions, traveling exhibitions, temporary exhibitions, and permanent exhibitions, were examined. For non-art exhibitions, which are generally more complex than art exhibitions, direct costs varied substantially across the four exhibition categories. According to the Smithsonian Institution, "exhibitions that include mechanical and electronic interactives, videos, or other complex, custom-made components have significantly higher costs." Also, when it comes to traveling exhibitions, there are additional costs relating to "design, production, and transportation." The institution warned, though, that the data "can be compared only loosely" due to differences in location, exhibition sizes, cost components, and accounting.

United Kingdom, 2016
Based on page 8 of the report "An Analysis of Touring Exhibitions Practice in the UK," which was published by the Touring Exhibitions Group in April 2016, the average budget and area of a United Kingdom touring exhibition in 2015 were £62,500 and 200 square meters, respectively. These figures translate to £31.25 per square meter or $37.70 per square foot (if conversion factors of £1 = $0.681 and 1 square meter = 10.76391 square feet are used). The resulting cost of $37.70 per square foot does not seem reliable, though, since it is even lower than the historical costs recorded for the United States and Canada.


From the 2009 presentation "The Nuts & Bolts of Traveling Exhibitions" of Joe Imholte, then Director of Special Exhibits at Science Museum of Minnesota, it appears the key components of the exhibition cost are as follows:

1. Exhibit design, development, and fabrication

In the case of the Science Museum of Minnesota, design and development are done through "an iterative process of prototyping, audience testing and evaluation."

2. Shipping

It is common for exhibits, especially artifacts, to travel by air ride trailers or specialized haulers, as these kinds of haulers ensure that the exhibit materials remain in proper condition prior installation.

3. Installation

This includes the crew and equipment (e.g., dollies, pallet jacks, and scissor lifts) needed to install the exhibit. The number of days it takes for the installation to be completed and the complexity of the exhibit are taken into consideration. Imholte said the installation of a 5,000- to 15,000-square foot exhibit usually takes 10 business days.

4. Climate control and handling of artifacts by couriers

Artifacts require special handling and regular monitoring. In the case of couriers, cost considerations include airfare, accommodation, per diem, labor fees, and, in some cases, translation services.

5. Storage

Crates and other materials that were used to ship the exhibit objects need to be stored properly. Artifact containers, similar to the artifacts themselves, have to be stored in a climate-controlled environment.

6. Staffing, exhibit maintenance, and reporting of artifact condition

These are done regularly while the exhibit is open.

7. Strike/Removal

This usually requires the same resources used during installation. It is possible, though, for the strike to take fewer days compared to the installation.


As far as traveling exhibits for science centers and natural history museums in North America are concerned, only historical estimates of the production cost can be found in the public domain. These estimates point to the possibility that the cost had risen from $56 per square foot in 2000 to $100-$400 per square foot in 2011. The overall traveling exhibition cost is composed of costs associated with the following activities: exhibit design, development, and fabrication; shipping; installation; climate control and handling of artifacts by couriers; storage; staffing, exhibit maintenance, and reporting of artifact condition; and strike or removal. There is a good chance that 20% to 25% of the traveling exhibition budget is accounted for by design.
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There is very limited information available regarding the profitability of traveling exhibitions. There is no evidence that further information exists in the public domain. However, there are a couple of articles about exhibits that are profitable but without hard data. Across the information, there is a common theme that develops: if the exhibit isn't in line with the museum's mission, it is more difficult to ensure the exhibit will break even or be profitable. Higher attendance will increase gross sales and likely yield higher profits. Therefore, an exhibit which fails to attract enough visitors will not be profitable.


The data does not exist in the public domain to determine if traveling exhibitions are profitable or to calculate the average profitability of traveling exhibitions. However, key findings include some information on the general profitability of traveling exhibitions and what is required to be profitable.
One of the few statistics available regarding the profit of travel exhibits is that in the last quarter of 2017, industry revenue rose by 2.9%. Unfortunately, the rest of the report is behind a paywall, and access is not available. Travel exhibits are profitable when they are marketed well by the exhibit company and partnering with other organizations may drive down costs. Those exhibits that can get sponsors for their production, generate profit easier and quicker.
An article from the Smithsonian Institute in 2002, states that a traveling exhibition can cost between $25 to $650,000 just for creation and on average, an art exhibit production costs are $90,000, and a non-art exhibit production costs are $450,000. According to the spreadsheet from the 'Travel Exhibits Production Costs' on average, an exhibit will charge between $25 and $35 per person for entry. Utilizing this data, we find that an art exhibit that costs $90,000 would need to bring in at least 3,000 (at $30 per person) people just to cover the production cost of the exhibit. For a non-art exhibit that costs $450,000 to produce the company would need to bring in 15,000 people at $30 per person to break even. These costs do not include the cost of moving the exhibit to different museums or to pay the staff that works at the exhibit. In some cases, the total cost of an exhibit could be in the millions meaning they would need to draw crowds in the 100,000 range to break even. Since the costs can be overwhelming just to start with, many museums and private companies look for donors or sponsors to help cover the costs of the exhibit. This can make it easier for exhibits to turn a profit on the exhibit if they can get money donated or given to them for production.
When advertising for an exhibit, the exhibitor needs to make sure the exhibit is being put in the best light. Many museums pay for exhibits to come and will cover the cost for advertising. But, a portion of the profit will go to the museum. In a lot of cases, this is as much as 50%.


A popular more recent trend in traveling exhibits is to do a blockbuster exhibit. These are exhibits related to a prominent movie, TV show or book that tours with various kinds of exhibits. These types of exhibits are bringing in around a million people. For these exhibits, if they are from a production studio, the cost of the pieces is probably covered, so the exhibit is more likely to turn a nice profit. Bookings for these types of exhibits ranges from $65,000 to $75,000 which would mean a very nice profit for the company. One thing the companies do have to worry about is the copyright rules involved with this kind of exhibit which is one of the reasons they can charge more.


The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh created an exhibit back in 2015 called “Very Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit” which brought in 1,130 people. They planned to run the exhibit again between June and September and expected it to draw around 80,000 people. After this, they took the exhibit on the road and are already booked through 2020. Their rental price is $70,000, and they are doing three sites a year. For them, this generates $2.1 million in revenue, and they plan to tour for ten years which will bring in significantly more money. The cost to create the exhibit was $750,000, and most of the money was given to museum via foundations and donors.

Another type of exhibit is educational exhibits, and the rental fee for these are between $30,000 to $40,000.
Possible follow up questions to this can be the following:
-Given a list of museums, what profit do they make on traveling exhibits?
-How much of an audience does the typical traveling exhibit get and what is the average price per ticket?
-How often do museums use exhibits?
-How many museums use exhibits to generate extra profit?
-What types of entities own traveling exhibits?


The average profit of the travel exhibit industry has increased 2.9% and that generally, the industry is profitable. Many of the articles found, detailed what is needed to start an exhibit and the various extra costs that are incurred but there were no articles that strictly talked about how profitable the industry can be.