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David H. Koch Plaza, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
David H. Koch Plaza, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Metropolitan Museum of Art and Philadelphia Museum of Art Make Deep Cuts to Staff

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which laid off more than eighty employees after it closed to the public in March due to concerns around Covid-19, has issued a second round of staff cuts in anticipation of a $150 million drop in revenue. In a memo sent Wednesday, chief executive officer Daniel H. Weiss and director Max Hollein informed Met employees that seventy-nine staff members were laid off, ninety-three voluntarily retired early, and a further 181 were furloughed, reducing the museum’s overall ranks by 20 percent since March of this year.

Cuts took place across the museum, with retail, security, and visitor service departments hit the hardest. The museum expects furloughs to be in effect for no longer than six months. The New York Times reports that 48 percent of those who lost their positions are people of color, who represent 43 percent of the Met’s total number of staffers. Those affected will remain on the museum’s payroll through August 29 and will receive health coverage through the end of the month.

According to Weiss and Hollein’s memo, other retrenchment measures taken by the museum include a hiring freeze, programming cuts, and a redirection of the funds generated by the Met’s $3 billion endowment. Both men took 20 percent pay cuts on their high six-figure salaries, while eleven other executives each forfeited 10 percent. The museum plans to begin welcoming visitors five days a week on August 29 but has acknowledged that the date might be pushed back further.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)—whose staff officially voted to form a union today with AFSCME District Council 47—has similarly eliminated a large percentage of its workforce to balance budgets upset by financial stress brought on by the pandemic. The first round came in April, when the PMA cut more than one hundred positions through furloughs and voluntary retirements. On Tuesday, the museum announced that eighty-five employees would be laid off, with another forty-two having accepted voluntary separation agreements, bringing the total number of staffers down by 23 percent since the pandemic began. The news arrived as workers were concluding their months-long union drive, launched after employees raised concerns over a culture of abuse and discrimination at the museum, whose former director Joshua Helmer departed the Erie Art Museum in January amid sexual harassment allegations. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the PMA, which intends to partially reopen in September, faces a loss of $16 million in income.