Natural History Museum Slashing Staff With Layoffs and Furloughs

Facing severe financial losses as a result of the pandemic, the American Museum of Natural History announced on Wednesday that it would cut its full-time staff by about 200 people, amounting to dozens of layoffs, and put about 250 other full-time employees on indefinite furlough.

The staff of roughly 1,100 employees will be reduced by about 20 percent, according to a statement from the museum. That figure includes 68 layoffs, 70 voluntary retirements and other workers whose contracts are expiring. The museum projects a budget deficit of between $80 million and $120 million for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, and the next fiscal year

“These actions are gut-wrenching,” Ellen V. Futter, the museum’s president, said in a statement, “but we are compelled to make them to protect the museum and its mission of research, science education, caring for our collections, and providing access for visitors.”

The layoffs and furloughs affect administrative staff members across almost every area of the museum, including exhibitions, events, scientific departments and education, said Anne Canty, a spokeswoman for the museum. Most employees who work directly with visitors, school groups and evening programs will be furloughed beginning on May 16. Several museum curators were among those who took the retirement option.

The museum’s statement said it “hopes to bring furloughed staff back to work in stages as it reopens and gradually resumes more normal operations.” Those employees will retain their health insurance.

There will also be graduated salary reductions implemented for employees who make $100,000 a year and up. Ms. Futter, whose salary is about $1 million, will be taking a 25 percent salary cut starting in the next fiscal year, the museum said.

The coronavirus has been devastating to cultural institutions in the city that have been forced to shut their doors with no certainty of when they might reopen, and to cancel major fund-raising events that help to sustain them.

The natural history museum’s actions take into account what museum operations are projected to look like when New York City starts to relax restrictions. That is likely to mean reduced business hours, cancellations of all school visits and public programming, as well as delays for temporary exhibitions like the museum’s Butterfly Conservatory, a popular attraction that puts visitors in the same room as hundreds of free-flying butterflies — but perhaps too close to one another during a pandemic.

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