Timeline: Museums and the Recession

Timeline: Museums and the Recession

Hardly a week has gone by in past months without troubling news from the museum sector: layoffs, budget reductions, exhibition cancellations, deaccessions, admission price increases, and even some closings. Here’s a running roundup. (If we've missed something, please let us know.)

June 29, 2009
Faced with an endowment that has fallen to $34 million from $46.5 million since last June, Oregon's Portland Art Museum reduces its 2010 fiscal-year budget to $12.1 million, from $13.4 million in 2009. Cost-cutting measures include letting go of five full-time staffers, a 10 percent reduction in non-salary operating expenses, a weeklong furlough for all full- and part-time staff, the continued vacancy of two key curatorial positions, and a jump in admission prices from $10 to $12.

June 26, 2009
The Philadelphia Museum of Art raises admission prices for the second time in two years, upping all entry fees by $2. The museum also plans to curtail its pay-as-you-wish policy from every Sunday to only the first Sunday of each month. In February, faced with an endowment that had shrunk by almost $100 million since July 2008, the museum announced a series of cost-cutting measures, including staff cuts, salary reductions, and exhibition deferments.

June 25, 2009
Chicago's Spertus Museum, a division of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, will reduce its public hours down to only every other Sunday and for special events. According to Proximity Magazine, Spertus is also firing the majority of its staff and keeping only the director and preparator full time. A spokeswoman for the museum verified the hours reduction but would only confirm that "some changes have been made" to the staff.

June 23, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art announces that it has finished a round of layoffs and voluntary retirements. Although the goal was a 10 percent reduction, the cuts have left the museum's staff 14 percent smaller, because more employees took buyouts than had been estimated. Savings from the layoffs amount to roughly $10 million — not enough to cover the losses in the 2010 operating budget, but close.

June 22, 2009
The Art Institute of Chicago eliminates 3 percent of its staff, or 22 employees from across the organization. Other cost-cutting measures implemented include a 10 percent pay cut for the director, weeklong unpaid furloughs for employees, and a salary freeze, as well as reduced public research hours at the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.

June 18, 2009
The Guggenheim Museum cuts 8 percent of its full-time staff, letting go of nine people across departments and leaving 16 positions vacant. The reductions are a response to an 18 percent drop in the institution's endowment, to approximately $113 million, over the past nine months. The museum also cuts back on staff travel and other expenses, for a total reduction to the annual budget by $6 million, to $60 million. The exhibition schedule and operating hours remain unchanged.

May 27, 2009
In an effort to cut operating expenses, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts eliminates three of its 15 full-time positions and reduces the working hours of remaining full-time staff members by 20 percent. The museum says it will go ahead with the 15 installations and exhibitions planned for the 2010–11 fiscal year.

May 26, 2009
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, announces it has achieved a balanced budget for fiscal year 2009–10, reducing the budget from $20 million to $15.5 million. Measures necessary to implement the new plan include the cancelation of four planned exhibitions, staff reductions from 159 positions to 119, pay cuts for senior staffers and others, and the slashing of benefits.

May 22, 2009
The Baltimore Museum of Art announces it will furlough half its staff for two weeks, leave six vacant positions unfilled, and cut back on some smaller exhibitions in order to trim its budget by 6.5 percent, or just under $900,000. The museum also cancels its three-year-old ArtBlast festival, reduces its exhibition calendar, and extends pay and partial hiring freezes, while opening to the public an hour earlier Wednesday through Friday. The reductions bring the annual operating budget to $12.7 million.

May 5, 2009
The Cleveland Museum of Art announces it will cut salaries on a sliding scale to make up for a 31 percent drop in its endowment. Employees earning $300,000 and over will see a 15 percent decrease; those who make above $200,000 will lose 10 percent; $100,000 or better, 5 percent; $75,000 or more, 2.5 percent. So far, layoffs and service reductions are not planned.

May 4, 2009
A week after detailing plans for a reduction in its budget, including the elimination of 205 jobs, the J. Paul Getty Trust discloses further details about pay cuts for senior staff members. Nine top executives will lose a total of $250,000, with the institution's three top earners taking a 6 percent salary hit.

April 28, 2009
After announcing a steep reduction in its budget last month, the J. Paul Getty Trust has released further details about the cuts, including a 14 percent reduction of its workforce, or 205 jobs. The museum will lay off 97 people, with the other reductions coming from vacant positions or those that are likely to open soon due to typical turnover. In addition, parking fees will increase, salaries for existing employees will be frozen and senior staff members will receive pay cuts, there will be fewer exhibitions, and acquisitions budgets are being reduced.

May 22, 2009
The Baltimore Museum of Art announces it will furlough half its staff for two weeks, leave six vacant positions unfilled, and cut back on some smaller exhibitions in order to trim its budget by 6.5 percent, or just under $900,000. The museum also cancels its the three-year-old ArtBlast festival, reduces its exhibition calendar, and extends a pay freeze and partial hiring freeze, while also opening to the public an hour earlier Wednesday through Friday. The reductions bring the annual operating budget to $12.7 million.

April 27, 2009
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston announces it has laid off 12 employees, equivalent to 9 percent of its 140-person workforce. Facing an approximately 30 percent drop in its endowment since July 2008, the museum also institutes a hiring freeze, cuts salaries of senior staff by 5 percent, and freezes salaries of all other employees at their current levels.

April 22, 2009
The Miami Art Museum announces it is reducing its operating costs by 10 percent. Measures include cutting professional staff from 35 to 32, shrinking departmental budgets, implementing a 5 percent salary cut for senior management and a "selective hiring and salary freeze," and requiring a one-week furlough for all full-time staff. The museum is also reducing the number of planned temporary exhibitions and the costs of storing its permanent collection. Unaffected is a planned $220 million expansion, still set to break ground within the year.

April 20, 2009
After increasing admission fees a month earlier, the Brooklyn Museum announces a series of cost-cutting measures, including a reduction in the number of major exhibitions, a moratorium on staff travel, an already-in-effect hiring freeze, and pay cuts for higher-paid, non-union staff members. All employees will also be offered voluntary "separation packages."

April 16, 2009
The Saint Louis Art Museum offers, for a second time, early retirement to eligible staff, and says it will leave vacant positions unfilled, cut back on printed materials, and eliminate all but essential travel.

April 13, 2009
The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii, a state museum of natural and cultural history, announces that it will reduce its hours and personnel expenses by closing on Tuesdays and by laying off some staff and requiring furloughs of others.

April 10, 2009
Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art, New York’s Asia Society, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., get hit by the downsizing bug. Each suffering from a 30 percent endowment decrease, the Corcoran (which has already had cuts) and the Asia Society cut 18 positions each. The Clark, with a 25 percent drop in its endowment, cuts 6 percent of its staff, or nine members.

April 6, 2009
The Art Gallery of Ontario lets go of 23 of its 178 full-time employees and elects not to retain 47 contract workers. In addition to the layoffs, the museum implements a salary freeze for all management and executive positions.

April 3, 2009
Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts lays off 33 employees and freezes salaries for next year’s budget. In addition, the museum announces it will not fill 21 vacancies, reducing a museum staff that once numbered 810 to 756 employees, 577 of whom are full-time.

March 31, 2009
It is reported that the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., has been forced to temporarily close some galleries due to a shortage of security staff. A museum representative says the shortage is because of "budget setbacks," a charge the Smithsonian Institution denies.

March 27, 2009
The Corcoran Gallery of Artlays off staff in an effort to cut costs. No details are released, butthe museum’s chief financial officer, director of marketing andcommunications, and associate curator are no longer listed on the museum'sWeb site.

March 20, 2009
The Brooklyn Museum announces it will increase its admission fees in an effort to weather the economic downturn.

March 17, 2009
Citing a 23 percent decrease in its endowment, Minneapolis's Walker Art Center announces it will reduce its budget by $900,000 in the next fiscal year, which, combined with a $1.1 million reduction this fiscalyear, means a drop from $21.3 million to $19.3million. Cuts include eliminating seven vacant staff positions, freezing salaries, and requiring furloughs.

March 16, 2009
The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver cuts four of 20 full-time staff positions and shrinks employee benefits.

March 16, 2009
The J. Paul Getty Trust announces it will cut its operating budgetalmost 25 percent in the coming fiscal year in response to investmentlosses of about $1.5 billion since July 2008. Cuts are expected to be in temporary exhibitions and acquisitions.

March 12, 2009
The Art Institute of Chicago raises its admission fees but says the increase “is not related to the current economic climate... or about any shortfall or deficit. It is about keeping up with operating costs.”

March 12, 2009
Two weeks after announcing it would close 15 retail shops and institute a hiring freeze, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announces that it is making major cuts to its merchandising staff. Seventy-four positions are eliminated, or 27 percent of its full-time and 9 percent of its part-time retail staff. The museum also anticipates that it will have to cut staff in its remaining departments by approximately 10 percent, as of July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

March 5, 2009
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts announces that it will reduce its staff and budget by 6 percent and its exhibitions and programs by as much as 20 percent next year.

March 2, 2009
The Indianapolis Museum of Art announces a 10 percent reduction in personnel, laying off 15 full-time and six part-time employees. Ten senior staff members, including the director and chief executive, give 3 percent of their salaries back to the museum.

February 26, 2009
The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore announces a restructuring plan that eliminates seven of 150 staff positions and imposes salary and hiring freezes and enforced leaves of absence without pay for some upper-level employees.

February 26, 2009
Seven people, most of them full-time employees, are laid off in round of unannounced cuts at the University of Washington’s contemporary art museum, the Henry Art Gallery.

February 25, 2009
The Philadelphia Museum of Art announces it is cutting staff, reducing salaries, deferring exhibitions, and trimming programming — as well as planning to increase admission fees — after its endowment fell from a high of $346 million in July 2008 to less than $256 million.

February 25, 2009
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta announces a series of budget cuts, including across-the-board salary cuts and staff reductions of 7 percent. Employees are also required to take unpaid leave.

February 24, 2009
The Metropolitan Museum of Art announces it will close 15 satellite shops around the United States, institute a hiring freeze, and reduce other costs.

February 23, 2009
As part of a $6 million cut to its annual budget, the Detroit Institute of Arts eliminates 20 percent of its staff — 56 full-time and seven part-time positions — and reduces operating costs by $1.6 million.

February 23, 2009
Several weeks after the unexpected resignation of its director, Libby Lumpkin, in response to proposed cutbacks, the Las Vegas Art Museum announces it is closing its doors until further notice.

February 9, 2009
In the hopes of reducing spending by 13 percent, the Akron Art Museum decides that it will close on Tuesdays, reduce the number of special exhibitions per year from 15 to nine, and cut several full- and part-time positions.

February 2, 2009
In the wake of a financial disaster that left the institution on the brink of collapse, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, announces that it will cut its staff by 20 percent and reduce operating expenses.

January 27, 2009
The Smithsonian Institution implements a hiring freeze and eliminates salary increases and bonuses for a group of its highest-paid employees, as well as asking several departments to cut their current budgets by 5 to 8 percent.

January 27, 2009
Facing a major budget crisis, Brandeis University announces it will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off its entire 6,000-work art collection. (University President Jehuda Reinharz later amends his statement to say that only some of the art will be sold and that the museum will become a teaching gallery.)

January 27, 2009
The 73-year-old Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo, Fla., closes for good after a long struggle with an ill-suited location, low attendance, and a shrinking endowment. (Less than a month later, the museum announces it will give its entire collection to Florida's St. Petersburg College.)

January 26, 2009
Kansas City's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art announces it is anticipating a 9 percent downturn in contributed and earned income and will need to cut about $340,000 from its $3.8 million budget.

January 16, 2009
The North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks launches a campaign called "Keep the Lights Bright" seeking donations to fill a gap in its $1.3 million annual budget.

January 15, 2009
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City cuts its budget by 10 percent in order to make up for decreased revenue. About $900,000, or half of the intended reduction, is to come from cutting 20 to 25 jobs.

January 13, 2009
Citing the poor economy, Texas's Austin Museum of Art postpones plans to build a new $23 million home downtown.

January 12, 2009
The Denver Art Museum cuts its 2009 fiscal-year budget by $2.5 million, or 12 percent.

January 9, 2009
Citing a 24 percent loss to its endowment, as well as decreased donations,merchandise sales, and membership, the Indianapolis Museum of Art delays the opening of its $25 million sculpture park–in-progress, cuts back programming and publishing projects, and implements a salary and hiring freeze.

January 8, 2009
The Albertina museum in Vienna cuts its budget by a total of €12 million ($16.2 million) over the next three years after suddenly losing more than €2 million in pledged private support.

January 8, 2009
After losing 30 percent of its endowment, Chicago's Field Museum introduces cost-cutting measures including layoffs, salary reductions, and the cancellation of an exhibition.

December 24, 2008
The Orange County Museum of Art announces it will delay a highly anticipated Richard Diebenkorn exhibition for six months for financial reasons.

December 23, 2008
L.A.'s beleaguered Museum of Contemporary Art accepts a bailout offer from billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.

December 18, 2008
The Getty Trustin Los Angeles announces that its endowment has declined “roughly 25percent” in less than six months and that it plans cuts to staff,programming, and operations. A freeze is implemented on all hiring, andpromotions and salary increases are halted.

December 17, 2008
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology announces it will lay off 18 researchers, while also planning to spruce up "tired exhibits."

December 8, 2008
Two California museums, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena and the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, announce they are are cutting their budgets, laying off employees, and canceling exhibitions in an effort to ride out the recession. The Pacific Asia reduces its budget by 20 percent and the Bowers by 10 percent.

December 5, 2008
The National Academy Museum in New York deaccessions two works to pay for operating costs, resulting in censure by the Association of Art Museum Directors and sparking widespread debate.

December 5, 2008
Libby Lumpkin, executive director of the Las Vegas Art Museum, resigns after learning that the museum's board wants to cut staff. "You can have my salary," she says.

December 2, 2008
After closing its doors and laying off a third of its staff in November, the Napa Valley nonprofit food, wine, and art center Copia files for bankruptcy.

November 26, 2008
The newly re-opened Newseum in Washington, D.C., reduces its staff of 250 employees by 10 percent due to the economic downturn.

November 25, 2008
After losing its longtime director and learning that it would be forced out of its current home in a county-owned building, the Minnesota Museum of American Art in St. Paul announces that it will cease operations while it searches for a new site.

November 24, 2008
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles announces it is facing a major financial crisis after repeatedly dipping into its endowment to pay for operations, decreasing the permanent fund to less than $10 million. (In December, it would be bailed out by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad.)

November 21, 2008
Several museums and monuments in Rome, including the Capitoline Museums and the Ara Pacis Museum, are temporarily shut due to a one-day strike staged by ticket-booth workers and security guards in fear of losing their jobs.

November 7, 2008
L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art announces it will close its Geffen Contemporary annex for six months beginning January 6.

November 6, 2008
The St. Louis Art Museum announces that it will postpone its $125 million, David Chipperfield–designed expansion, set to break ground at the end of 2008, until after the market stabilizes.

October 3, 2008
It is reported that the University of North Florida is planning to acquire the struggling Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art.

September 29, 2008
The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, cancels an upcoming exhibition, freezes other traveling shows, and lays off 25 employees — more than half its staff.

September 18, 2008
The Detroit Institute of Arts says that as much as $750,000 could be cut from the 2009 budget in an attempt to battle chronic budget shortfalls that include a $17 million loss in 2008 and combined total losses of almost $100 million in the past decade.