Despite Knowing the Reasons Why, Smithsonian Doesn’t Know the Reasons Why Attendance Was Way Up in 2009

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A sort of funny bit of strangeness in a story coming from the Washington Post. According to the paper, the Smithsonian set new records for attendance in 2009, with somewhere around 30 million people visiting their various museums. We knew why this was, because we’d been talking about it all last year (the inauguration, the expanded hours, the movie tie-ins), as did Jacqueline Trescott who wrote the Post story and begins it by saying nearly the same. But apparently the Smithsonian organization itself isn’t ready to make any definite rulings on why it was so popular this year:

Understandably satisfied with the year’s outcome, the Smithsonian is offering only educated guesses as to the reasons. “We definitely had increased numbers because of the inauguration and American History reopening for a full year. And then we kept the big three museums on the Mall open until 7:30 p.m. the entire summer,” said Linda St. Thomas, the chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, referring to the American History, Natural History and Air and Space museums. “Then there was Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, and people would come and ask visitor services, ‘Where is the real thing? I just saw the movie.’ We know it had an effect.”

Um, Ms. St. Thomas, we think maybe you just explained it. Unless there’s some secret study going on in the background that she’s not aloud to talk about? That it was actually due to things like sun spots, or a big influx of doppelgangers?