The increasingly negative economic conditions facing the United States and the world certainly are no longer news. Although huge swings in the financial markets still garner headlines, news reports are increasingly focused on how the negative economic climate is impacting governments and other institutions.
In recent days, various state and local governments have announced plans to freeze salaries, furlough employees not essential to public safety, and to defer various civic projects. Undoubtedly, the economic downturn will increase financial pressures on educational and research organizations, including natural history museums. Philanthropic giving may also slow during these times, particularly given the significant losses occurring in global stock and other financial investment instruments.
Some evidence of the potential impact on museums was reported in the 15 October 2008 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. According to an article by Henry Brean, “After months of cost overruns and construction delays, the new Nevada State Museum is on track for completion at the Springs Preserve in February — just in time for massive budget cuts that could keep it from opening until July 2011 or later.” As reported, the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs has proposed a delay in funding to help cover the agency’s portion of an expected budget cut in response to an anticipated “massive state budget shortfall.” If the budget for the new museum is cut, it would likely delay construction of the museum’s exhibits and filling an anticipated 13 staff positions.