‘Extreme but thoughtful’ budget cuts keeping VMHC afloat as museum expects $2 million in losses

Business

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Hundreds of museums around the country are struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

 Richmond is known for it’s many famous museums.

 Now, they’re having to jump through hoops just to stay alive.

Attendance is down, revenues slashed, and they’re taking on additional expenses to keep people safe inside.

A June survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums reported that about a third of the country’s museums are not confident they can survive until next October without more financial help.

The Virginia Museum of History and Culture on Arthur Ashe Boulevard in Richmond is one of the many museums facing serious challenges. President and CEO Jamie Bosket said attendance and revenue are at an all-time low.

“It’s a tough reality and one that we have to work aggressively to remedy,” he told 8News Monday. He said VMHC lost more than a $1 million while closed for three months. By the end of the pandemic, he expects losses will climb to $2 million. “It may be one of the most significant financial impacts we’ve ever seen from any crisis in our long history, which is almost 200 years,” Bosket said.

The CEO told 8News that after the busiest year ever in 2019, this year, attendance is way down. “Now we’re seeing capacities of around 30 percent of what we would have experienced last year.” However, that isn’t surprising him. He said low ticket sales were expected when the museum re-opened back in July.

Even considering the challenges, Bosket said thankfully, VMHC will survive. He added that the museum hasn’t furloughed or laid off any employees due to the virus. 

Instead, they’re staying alive with strategies like “extreme but thoughtful” budget cuts, including pausing some programming and delaying other expenses, according to the president and CEO.

“These challenges are in many ways unprecedented but we do have a path to get through this,” he said.

VMHC is also beginning a huge $30 million renovation project.

 Because of the pandemic, Bosket said they are speeding the construction process up dramatically and plan to finish the project within 18 months. 

“We had to speed up the project in a dramatic way,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that we needed to make drastic changes in order to stay afloat and to keep our head above the water in this period.”

Included in the renovation is a new entrance and great hall, a new cafe, a second floor event terrace, a new immersive theater, new exhibition spaces, a new research library with a rare book and manuscript suite, and an expanded parking lot.

Bosket hopes it’s complete right around the time that the country is expected to recover from the pandemic. Bosket added that research predicts that museums won’t be fully “business as usual” until the end of 2021 or 2022.  

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