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Over 40% of American Museum of Natural History Staff Impacted by Layoffs and Furloughs

About 200 full time staffers have been cut via layoffs and voluntary retirements, and another 250 were furloughed.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City (photo by vagueonthenow via Flickr)

Projecting a budget deficit of between $80 million and $120 million for the current and coming fiscal year, the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City has slashed its full-time staff by 20 percent. A total of 200 full-time employees have been cut via a combination of layoffs and voluntary retirements and another 250 furloughed, translating to nearly half of the museum’s staff of 1,100 workers being affected by the cost-saving measures, reports the New York Times.

AMNH has been closed since March 13 to help curb the spread of coronavirus, following NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s state of emergency declaration. This is the first prolonged public closure of the museum in its 150-year history. The projected $80-120 million shortfall was calculated based on factors such as decreased attendance and an anticipated reduction in operating hours once the museum reopens.

To help soften the financial blow of the pandemic, the museum has resorted to tapping into select endowment funds.

“While it is essential to protect the endowment to ensure our future, we have called on Museum reserves, including some designated endowment funds,” a museum spokesperson told Hyperallergic.

Administrative workers across departments and visitor services and education department members will be among the most affected. The majority of employees who work with visitors and school groups will be furloughed starting May 16, while a number of museum curators opted for voluntary retirement, according to the NYT. Furloughed workers will reportedly remain insured and the museum hopes to re-hire them as it reopens.

“These actions are gut-wrenching,” said Futter in a statement provided to Hyperallergic. “But we are compelled to make them to protect the Museum and its mission of research, science education, caring for our collections, and providing access for visitors, especially residents of the five boroughs of New York City, New York State, and our regional neighbors in the Tri-state area.” 

Graduated salary reductions will also be implemented for anyone earning over $100,000; museum president Ellen V. Futter, whose salary was over $1 million in 2018 between base compensation and bonuses, will take a 25 percent cut. 

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