A Selected Chronicle of the Times: Museum Cuts, Shrinkage, and Expansions

  • The Akron Art Museum has cut staff and hours. The number of exhibitions will also be reduced by about one third.
  • The Bishop Museum in Honolulu has announced plans to cut both staff and hours, beginning May 1st.
  • The Boise Art Museum has laid-off an associate curator and plans additional staff cuts, reportedly hoping to staff some areas of the museum with volunteers instead.  The museum has a new director and is apparently struggling with accumulated debt.  
  • The Brooklyn Museum will put its entire staff on a one week furlough this summer and reduce the salaries of those making in excess of $60,000.  Some planned exhibitions have been cancelled as well.  The museum has lost about 32% of the aid that it previously received from the city of New York.
  • The Everson Museum has cut two full-time positions and is planning to outsource others to reduce costs.
  • The Getty Trust has announced that it will lay off about 14% of its workers, resulting in the elimination of about 97 positions and with future vacancies to remain unfilled.   The top 10 administrators at the Getty will be taking pay cuts as well.  It is also reported that present financial conditions will require some planned exhibitions to be cancelled and although entrance will remain free of charge, the cost of parking will increase–up to $15 per vehicle.
  • The Japanese American National Museum has reduced its hours as a result of financial issues.   It is now closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, prior to its apparent rescue from the jaws of insolvency, announced plans to reduce its staff by 20%; a total of about 32 postions.
  • In March the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced 74 layoffs, adding to the 53 that already occurred.  The museum’s endownment has reportedly dropped by 28% in value.  (That’s a loss of about $800 million).
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art has instituted cuts to salaries and exhibition plans.  Admission fees may rise as well.
  • The Walters Museum in Baltimore has eliminated some jobs, instituted a hiring freeze and furloughs.  Some planned exhibitions have been cancelled. 
  • And then there is the uncertain future of the Rose Art Museum.  It will remain open while its fate is decided by Brandeis University, which had previously announced plans to deaccession the museum’s entire collection.
  • The Las Vegas Art Museum has closed its doors, at least for the time being.  The fate of its collection is unknown.

The list goes on; these are but representations of the entire picture.  Economic conditions have hit nearly across the spectrum of art institutions.

Along with the losses attributed to the decline in value of endowments and debt, other factors may be involved, including the interconnected structure of the museum system itself.  In consideration of joint projects and traveling shows, the cancellation of exhibitions has a potential for producing a cascading effect.  That is, when a payment is involved and one institution cancels, the lending institution may not receive additional revenue it was counting on either.  Regardless, as a result the personnel at both museums involved in the logistics of such projects is not needed either.  Also, the combination of rising entry fees and a loss of personal income may, if not yet, contribute to a decline in attendance as well.

On the other hand, a few institutions are moving forward with plans to expand, despite mixed conditions.

  • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum intends to continue with expansion plans despite a recent staffing cut.  A loss of value in the museum’s endowment was sited as the cause, but the expansion is presumably funded through separate fundraising efforts.
  • The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently announced that it intends to expand the museum’s space signficantly, although there no concrete plans as of yet.
  • The Saint Louis Art Museum has apparently revived its expansion plan and intends to begin construction later this year.
  • And, the Crocker Museum in Sacramento is in the midst of new construction that will triple the exhibition space.  Interestingly, it purchased some building materials left over from the Museum of Modern Art (NY) renovation. 




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