Layoffs at Please Touch Museum

On the Please Touch Museum carousel in 2009. Officials said the $400,000 budget reduction would not diminish programming or hours.
On the Please Touch Museum carousel in 2009. Officials said the $400,000 budget reduction would not diminish programming or hours. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 15, 2013

The Please Touch Museum, in default on the debt it assumed to renovate a new home in Memorial Hall, eliminated nine positions Wednesday as part of a budget-trimming process. The cuts represent about a 4 percent reduction in staff.

The museum's board is seeking to increase revenue from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government sources, said interim president and CEO Lynn McMaster, and "must demonstrate that the museum is operating as efficiently as possible." This means across-the-board cuts of about $400,000 on the museum's $9 million annual budget, she said.

She emphasized that the cuts - eight staffers laid off, and one unfilled position eliminated - would not diminish programming or hours of operation at the children's museum.

McMaster declined to specify the areas of the reorganization, but said it included "both administration jobs as well as supervisory and managerial jobs." She said that a few positions might be restored in the visitor services and exhibitions departments.

The layoffs will not achieve the entire $400,000 budget cut. Additional savings will be sought in the cost of operating Memorial Hall, she said, and by delaying the development of new exhibitions.

The cuts come as the museum holds talks with bondholders. In September, the board voted to forgo a scheduled $2 million payment, putting the museum in default on the money it borrowed to finance renovations of the Fairmount Park building after fund-raising came up short. Discussions continue next week with a meeting between the museum board and major institutional bondholders from across the country.

Though the museum has raised the possibility of bankruptcy, McMaster on Wednesday minimized the chances of that.

"Anything is an option, but I don't feel that's the direction that the organization or the bondholders are considering," she said. "We are looking at collaboratively finding a solution to our long-term financial plans that really ensures the security of the museum."

Whether that means restructuring the debt or a forgiveness of a portion of it, she declined to say.


pdobrin@phillynews.com

215-854-5611

www.inquirer.com/artswatch

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