Thursday, December 31, 2009

Where Are We Cutting Back?

As budgets get tighter, where are we cutting back?

Hearing previous bloggers expand upon the lack of jobs and salary increases; I'm interested in where else you're feeling the pinch?

Is it in your benefits, such as the loss of retirement matching, or the increase of health care coverage for a decrease in benefits?

Do you think museums are cutting back on programming? If so, how and where?

Are we seeing a decrease in visitorship? Or an increase if you're at an admission free museum?

Please share your thoughts.


academic poser said...

Our museum opted to close all but one Saturday a month in order to be open on Mondays, a day we were previously closed to work on projects. Shifting one open to the public day to a school day has allowed us to schedule more tours and increase revenue significantly. This has made it more difficult to work on exhibits and research projects, but we seem to be adjusting.

Nathan said...

Hi Erin,

This is a good question. I was kinda trying to ask the same thing, but you have a much better way of phrasing the questions than I do.

We've made some big cut backs at the Freedom Museum--namely that we closed the entire museum in March and are operating as an outreach organization. It has been a major transition to say the least (and heartbreaking as a museum professional and as part of founding staff). But, our organization faced significant cutbacks in our funding, and our board challenged the staff to find a new way of carrying on our mission without the burden of paying rent. So, we came up with an entirely new model that operates much like a museum without walls. Our mission was always about the First Amendment, so we decided to focus on trying to try to change the way civics are taught and discussed. We are going out to schools, traveling exhibits, working with educators, and holding public programs--but in other venues accross the community.

By cutting out the museum (I wont tell you how much we paid in rent, but we were located on Michigan Ave, so you do the math), we were able to save a ton of money on facilities. Unfortunately, while that meant we lost members of our staff, we were able to save a great deal on overhead expenses.

The other cool thing that has happened is that we have put a great deal move emphasis on partnerships. We still create public programs with our own mission in mind, but we find partner organizations who have similar missions to ours to host the program and collaborate on content.

Its also allowed us to be able to expand in different areas. We hired a new journalist who is producing original content for the media and are now building a mobile museum that will feature many of the same exhibits we had in the original museum.

So, in short, I think our organization has tied to make the most of the economic crisis. It has sucked in many, many ways, but it has also oppened up a host of new opportunities and actually might allow us to better serve our mission.


Nathan said...

wow, that was long winded and filled with typos. my apologies.

Anonymous said...

As a former museum event coordinator, seems to me events are one of the first to go.

I have several years of museum fundraising / donor event planning under my belt, and since I was laid off from my event planning position last February, I have yet to even SEE a position posted in any Pacific NW market (namely, Seattle and Portland).

Same with general museum administration. With nearly a decade of administrative experience, I have had no luck securing a museum admin. position, and have only seen a few posted.

It stinks to work in a field that is so valuable yet so undervalued that it's practically obliterated by this recession.

Patrick Faith said...

One way to drastically reduce operational costs is to virtualize your installations. My recent approach has been to virtualize works into SL (costs around 300$ a month), then allow most people to view the works through youtube and/or realtime flash. This connects to new audiences, and actually allows people a deeper understanding of the works when they visit the rl location.

So if one does have to drastically reduce hours, limit the amount of displayed, limit the rotation from the vault, the public still has a connection to the works. If the public looses connection to your rl locaiton via reductions of access, my "gut" feel is it will be very hard to regain the click count at the door.

Anonymous said...

Of course the economy is affecting American museums, however this does not reach the root of the problem. I think that now more than ever technology and more personalized extracurricular activities take the museum visitor's attention away from the museum and to some other activity such as watching TV or going to a mall. Many museum's have not answered the call to shift from a collections-focused institution to a purely public-oriented place. The former assumes visitors come only to see the artifacts, while the latter places the museum as an open venue providing public service and interaction. In order to increase visitor numbers, museums must tailor their programs to the communities they are serving and give those people more agency in what is being exhibited in their museum.

Anonymous said...

I work at a large historic house & museum on the east coast and we have definitely had our share of cutbacks. With our endowment falling by approximately 40%, and a large portion of our budget coming from admission, restaurant, and event revenue it's definitely re-aligned our focus.

We lost six full time administrative positions at the beginning of 2009 and have been in a hiring freeze since late 2008. Raises are basically non-existent and over the last 3 to 4 months there have been waves of high-level staff leaving their positions to get paid more elsewhere. Some of these positions were considered essential and have been filled, others have not.

The overall effect has been a dramatic drop in employee morale, as evidenced by the resignations. The institution seems to be relying on its reputation to retain good employees.

A major problem (from somebody looking at the institution from the bottom) seems to be the absolute ignorance of senior management towards what is really going on on a daily basis. It leads to the feeling that bad practices are never going to change, and we are never going to be on our feet again financially.

I understand that painting a doom and gloom picture is a better way of getting large donations than saying everything is fine. However, when that's all the staff hears it really feeds into a negative work environment.

Aside from the staffing cutbacks, the actual programming and interpretation has not been affected. We were able to keep our hours and educational programs mostly because we had such a large endowment to begin with, to the great credit of our development and financial staff.

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kaya said...

what happened to all the contributors? no post since december.. did you all quit and got better paying jobs?

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