Companies in this industry operate museums, historical sites, zoos, botanical gardens, parks and other institutions focused on preserving and exhibiting works of cultural or natural significance. Major US museums include the Smithsonian (National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and National Air and Space Museum), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the National Gallery of Art. Top US zoos include San Diego Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo (Chicago), and St. Louis Zoo.
Demand is partly linked to growth in local income and to tourist travel. The profitability of individual institutions depends largely on good marketing. Large institutions have the advantage of name recognition or proximity to mass tourism areas. Small institutions can compete successfully by concentrating on specialty topics, or by operating in a favorable location. The US industry is fragmented: the top 50 institutions account for about 30% of revenue.
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About 35% of revenue comes from contributions and grants from private and government sources. Admission fees account for about 20%. Other sources of revenue include sales of food and merchandise. Among individual institutions, the revenue mix can vary significantly, as some receive significant support from endowments.