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US art museums hit by recession

world Updated: Mar 14, 2009 23:59 IST
Reuters
New York

Museums in New York and Philadelphia are cutting jobs, slashing salaries and closing stores because their endowments have been pounded by declines in donations, government aid and investment returns.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is closing 15 of its merchandising stores across the U.S, leaving only eight stores open in New York. It will cut about 250 jobs, or 10 percent of its workforce, before July 1.

The museum, founded more than 130 years ago, has lost about $800 million from its endowment since mid-2008, when it was worth about $2.9 billion, spokesman Harold Holzer said. There were no plans to cut exhibits.

The Met’s funding sources include its endowment, government aid, private donations and admission revenues.

The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia announced a hiring freeze on Friday and said it would cut salaries by 5 percent. Its endowment and other investments dropped to less than $40 million from $60 million in early 2008.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles almost had to close until billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad came up with a $30 million rescue plan in 2008. The Getty Trust that operates museums in Southern California has frozen hiring and salaries. The Museum of Modern Art, New York implemented a hiring freeze in October and ordered a general budget cut of 10 percent.