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Culture at no charge on Museum Day

On Saturday, Sept. 26, Capital District residents can learn about science at the Schenectady Museum, tour a World War II-era destroyer escort, play at the Saratoga Children's Museum and more without spending a cent.

Smithsonian Magazine is sponsoring the fifth annual Museum Day. In the spirit of the 15 Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., that don't charge admission, participating museums will waive admission fees for those with a special Smithsonian card. More than 1,200 museums nationwide are taking part, including more than 100 in New York State.

The Schenectady Museum has been part of the program since its inception, when many people who presented the special cards for free admission got them from the pages of the magazine, said Erin Breslin, the museum's director of communications. In recent years, more people have shown up with admission cards printed from the magazine's Web site (this year's card can be downloaded at http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/museumday).

Breslin said the event is a good way to raise exposure of the museum, which is key since it relies heavily on word of mouth to attract visitors.

For us, it's a win-win, she said.

If the museum, which usually charges admission ranging from $4 to $6.50, didn't have a special event already planned for the day, it would probably put something together, Breslin said. As it happens, this year's Museum Day coincides with the Schenectady Museum's monthly Adventures in Science program, which features demonstrations and experiments led by scientists and researchers from companies throughout the region.

Breslin said other highlights at the museum include "National Grid: Powering the Capital District," which examines the development of electricity and natural gas transmission in the Capital District, and "Solar and Wind Power Interactives," which looks at renewable energy.

The museum has an unusual niche in that it's not a children's museum, nor is it strictly for adults, Breslin said.

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