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Chicago museums, zoos see attendance wane in 2014

Attendance at Chicago-area zoos and museums dipped slightly last year, but a David Bowie exhibit brightened the picture for one institution.

A group called Museums in the Park released attendance figures Thursday for 15 Chicago-area attractions. Attendance was 14.3 million in 2014, a decline of 3 percent from the previous year.

Officials say the polar vortex kept visitors away. Most of the institutions saw their attendance bounce back as the weather improved.

The Museum of Contemporary Art bucked the trend. Its popular “David Bowie Is” exhibit drew crowds, and attendance jumped more than 50 percent compared to 2013.

Others with increases in attendance were Chicago Botanic Garden (1,058,368, up from 1,002,691 in 2013), Chicago History Museum (from 252,845 to 271,668), DuSable Museum of African American History (from 108,874 to 118,473) and Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (from 265,178 to 274,600).

Despite a drop in visitors, the Lincoln Park Zoo remained the most popular of the attractions, with attendance of 3,349,484, down from 3,462,696. Also experiencing dips were the Art Institute of Chicago (from 1,539,716 to 1,424,105), Brookfield Zoo (from 2,173,803 to 2,087,432), the Shedd Aquarium (from 2,015,130 to 1,814,857), the Museum of Science and Industry (from 1,395,773 to 1,387,555) and the Field Museum (from 1,286,286 to 1,228,655).