Next Chapter in the Seaport Museum History?

In Feb. 14, 2011, the Seaport Museum New York furloughed* 32 employees (curatorial and development department), reportedly half of its staff. That’s not all, the New York Times reported that in January and February, seven of the 21 trustees resigned from the board and all future exhibitions have been put on hold.

On Feb. 17, 2011, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Kate D. Levin, New York City Cultural Affairs Commissioner,  and Frank J. Sciame, the Seaport Museum’s chairman for the last four years, met at City Hall to look at museums financial records and to speak about the future of the museum. Apparently, Mr. Sciame has lent the museum $3 million since 2010 to cover operating expenses like payroll. Was that a right move for a board member or not?
 Timeline:

  • 2004 — library building closed; collection of 2 million artifacts excavated in Lower Manhattan deaccessioned; budget reduced by $1 million;
  • 2005 — antique ships offered for adoption;
  • 2008 — museum runs a deficit of $1 million, with budget or about $5.2 million;
  • 2010 — Sciame loans museum $1.5 million;
  • 2011 — ?

The future of the museum is unclear but according to one furloughed employee, Mr. Sciame was ” doing incalculable harm to the Seaport Museum…  He has refused overtures from the city to help stabilize the museum and has driven away trustees who resent his high-handed and confrontational manner. It’s hard to kill a nonprofit, but Sciame is well on the way to accomplishing just that.”
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Furlough — temporary layoff; leave without pay.

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