Museum of Arts and Sciences to close Mondays, announces furloughs

The Museum of Arts and Sciences, looking to cut expenses, announced shortened hours of operation Monday and furloughs for full-time employees.

Beginning May 4, the museum will be closed Mondays until further notice, said Amanda Respess, the museum’s public relations director.

“We’re just anticipating the impact of the bad economy,” Respess said.

The closing will not affect any school field trips or camps scheduled for Mondays during the remainder of the school year, she said. The museum will open for scheduled trips by students, but not the public.

In addition, the museum’s three-week summer program, Camp Discovery, will run as scheduled Monday through Friday during June and July.

The museum also announced mandatory one-week furloughs for full-time employees to be taken before the museum’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“There are 15 full-time employees now, and we’ll spread out the furloughs between now and the beginning of October,” Respess said.

Museum attendance has been good, especially on weekends, she said, but corporate sponsorships, community funding and museum memberships are down.

“We still have some generous corporate contributions, but I know businesses are cutting back on expenses and so they’re not at the same level they were a year ago,” she said. “Plus, families are cutting back on expenses.”

The museum’s executive director, Suzanne Harper, said in a statement that she anticipates pay reductions for salaried staff, perhaps as early as the fall.

The museum also has laid off one full-time and one part-time employee in the past 60 days, “but we are doing everything possible to avoid eliminating any more positions,” Harper said.

She described the closing and furloughs as pre-emptive measures “intended to make a positive impact on the museum’s bottom line before we reach the end of our fiscal year.”

The economic blahs affecting the museum are also affecting other similar institutions, Respess said.

“All are feeling it, I’m sure, but I don’t know specifically how they plan on handling it,” she said.

“But we’re not blaming it all on the economy. That seems to be the go-to excuse these days.”

Respess emphasized that the museum is not going to close.

“This is just for the foreseeable future,” she said. “Once in a while you hear good news about the economy, but until many more feel comfortable about it, I don’t see it picking up soon.”

The Monday closing will figure into the next fiscal year’s budget, she said.

“It’s not that unusual for institutions to be closed one day during the week,” she said. “But we want to be responsible, be the best stewards of our funds and keep the doors open as much as we can.”

Free admission to the museum will now be held Tuesdays from 2-5 p.m. instead of Mondays.

Also, free admission on the last Friday of each month will continue for all Bibb County residents as well as college students with identification.

To contact reporter Jake Jacobs, call 923-6199, extension 305.