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Recession Obsession: Metropolitan Museum and Guggenheim Cut Staffs UPDATED

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Metropolitan Museum president Emily Rafferty at Monday’s press preview for its “Afghanistan” exhibition

The Guggenheim announced it late yesterday. The Metropolitan Museum will announce it this week: Both museums are significantly reducing their staffs in light of recent financial pressures.

The Guggenheim is cutting 25 positions, across all departments. In response to my queries, the museum’s deputy director for external affairs, Eleanor Goldhar, disclosed that only nine people were actually being laid off, none of them from the curatorial staff.

She explained that “some [of those whose positions were eliminated] are being offered jobs for which they are qualified, where a vacancy exists.” The Guggenheim is saving $6 million through these staff cuts, but does not intend to cut exhibitions, education or public programs, Goldhar said. She declined to disclose what specific curatorial positions were being eliminated.

As for the Met, a highly placed source there told me yesterday that about 200 staffers had been offered early retirement, and about 100 had accepted, including at least two department heads. A number of the museum’s most senior and experienced people were leaving the building, my source said. In addition, he said, other staff members were notified last week that they would be involuntarily terminated. A hiring freeze had previously been instituted.

Harold Holzer, the Met’s senior vice president for external affairs, would not discuss any numbers when I contacted him yesterday. (He was not my original source, nor was Met president Emily Rafferty, pictured above.) An official announcement would be made this week, Holzer told me. The job reductions, he said, were still “in process. I can’t comment until it’s all done.” He said that early retirement had been offered to employees who were at least 55 years old, with at least 15 years of service.

On Mar. 12 the Met had announced a major cutback in its retail staff and operations, as well as “the additional need to reduce the rest of its full- and part-time work force by approximately 10% in all other areas of its operations, before the beginning of its next fiscal year, July 1.”

That time has come.

UPDATE: The official tally of Met job cuts, announced a few days later than expected, is now here.

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