Metropolitan Museum Announces Job Cuts, Expects More to Follow
March 16, 2009, Philanthropy News Digest — The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced that it will lay off more than a quarter of its merchandising staff, eliminating 74 jobs in addition to the 53 it cut last year, the New York Times reports.
The museum's endowment has lost an estimated $800 million, or 28 percent of its value, since last summer, when it was worth an estimated $2.9 billion, and museum officials have warned that the worsening economy may force a staff reduction of 10 percent — or as many as 250 full- and part-time jobs — before the summer. Already, the museum has imposed a hiring freeze, temporarily eliminated merit raises, and curtailed staff travel, entertainment, and the use of temporary employees.
The museum's problems have been compounded by a drop in the number of foreign visitors, who account for 35 percent of the museum's attendance, spend more on souvenirs than Americans, and tend to pay the full suggested entry fee of $20. Even with highly anticipated exhibitions such as the Francis Bacon show and an exhibit of treasures from ancient Afghanistan, the museum is uncertain it can meet its goal of 4.3 million visitors for the fiscal year, which ends in June.
The Met is not alone, however. Museums across the country are retrenching in similar or more draconian ways, trimming budgets and staff while delaying planned expansions. The Cincinnati Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta have all imposed layoffs.
Officials at the Met claimed that the cuts will not alter the museum's hours of operation and should have little effect on its exhibitions, conservation activities, and other core functions. In a statement, the museum said that "because the Metropolitan is so large and complex an organization, whose staff possess skill sets crucial to maintaining its buildings and collections successfully, such a contraction requires a deliberate and delicate process, which museum management, while acknowledging the urgent need for reductions, is committed to undertaking with the greatest care."