Economic Downturn Forces Newseum to Reduce Staff

Economic Downturn Forces Newseum to Reduce Staff
The Newmuseum, which re-opened earlier this year in a new location in Washington, D.C., has been forced to reduce its staff of 250 employees by 10 percent due to the economic downturn, reports the Washington Post. Museum administrators offered voluntary buyouts, with 19 people accepting as well as two officers retiring and four vacant positions that will remain unoccupied.

The museum, which is devoted to the media, news gathering, and the teaching of the First Amendment, has unusually strong ties with some of the major players in the Wall Street crisis. In addition to being financed largely by the Freedom Forum — a foundation with significant stock-market investments — the museum’s endowment is handled by Goldman Sachs, with Lehman Brothers serving as the broker for its construction bonds. The Freedom Forum alone has been hit hard enough to drop the value of its endowment from $600 million to $450 million, said Charles L. Overby, the Newseum chief executive officer.

The majority of museums in D.C. receive some share of their finances from the federal government, such as the Smithsonian, which acquires 70 percent of its annual budget from federal contributions. Others, such as the National Gallery of Art, typically receive a combination of public and private money. The Newseum’s $50 million annual budget comes solely from admission fees, private donations, and funds from the Freedom Forum.

The Newseum expects a relative easing of financial troubles and a potential boom in customers and dollars with the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.