Staff cuts will be aimed at curators and scientists. The museum will also focus more on its own collections and be more selective in choosing outside exhibits that cost more money to organize. Photo courtesy of the Field Museum.
Chicago’s Field Museum, announced plans to cut staff, overhaul operations and scale back research due to the economy and the museum’s high debt load.
Museum officials made the announcement during a Dec. 18 meeting with the editorial boards of several Chicago newspapers.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Richard Lariviere, in his remarks, said, “Chicago has built one of the world’s most important museums, and the community that has supported its remarkable work over the decades has reason to be proud of it. When I came aboard, I made a commitment to build on that reputation, in an effort to ensure the institution’s impact far into the future.”
In order to do that, Lariviere said the museum has to re-focus on how it operates and come to terms with the state of the economy.
“…We have not been immune to the consequences of the past several years of financial turmoil in the country and the world, and like so many others, we face an unbalanced budget and significant debt.” Lariviere said.
Known for its research into plants, animals and extraordinary collections including the bones of Sue, the world’s largest Tyrannosaurus Rex, the natural history museum may also change its hours of operation and raise admission prices for special exhibits.
Nancy O’Shea, the Field Museum’s Public Relations Director said museum officials are not ready to lay out any specific plans right now.
Museum officials hope to cut $5 million in costs and increase the museum’s endowment by $100 million. Museum staff and board members will work on a plan between now and July 1.
Staff cuts will be aimed at curators and scientists. The museum will also focus more on its own collections and be more selective in choosing outside exhibits that cost more money to organize.
The cost-cutting plan follows earlier attempts to trim $5 million, also primarily through staff cuts. But rising bond debt and operating deficits over the past decade have combined with flat revenues and dwindling government subsidies to put a financial squeeze on the institution.
Lariviere, the former University of Oregon president who started work at the museum in October 2012 said the museum has more than $170 million in outstanding bonds and called that amount very high compared with the institution’s $300 million endowment. The bonds cost the museum more than $7 million a year, taking a bite out of an operating budget of less than $70 million.
Incorporated in Illinois in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with the purpose of accumulating and disseminating knowledge, and preserving and exhibiting art, archaeology, science and history, in 1905, the Museum’s name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum’s first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences.
In 1921 the Museum moved from its original location in Jackson Park to its present site on Chicago Park District property at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., near downtown where it is part of a lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium.
Despite the possible hike in ticket prices, Lariviere said the average patron shouldn’t notice much of a change in the short term.
AP Contributed to this story.