Coronavirus: Minnesota Historical Society lays off 176 staff, Minnesota Orchestra takes pay cuts

MNHS to reopen Split Rock, Jeffers Petroglyphs.
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The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) is laying off 176 staff, while the Minnesota Orchestra's full-time staff is taking pay cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

MNHS announced the decision Wednesday, adding that it will also recall 64 furloughed staff in order to support the reopening of the Split Rock Lighthouse and Jeffers Petroglyphs.

It will further extend the furloughs for 139 staff and lay off 176 more. The staff who have been laid off are primarily those who work at MNHS historical sites and museums that remain closed, the society said. 

"These actions will address strains on the MNHS operating budget as a result of ongoing closures. Critical staff will continue to ensure the security of historic sites and resources," the release notes.

MNHS will reopen the Split Rock Lighthouse and Jeffers Petroglyphs on July 15, joining the Birch Coulee Battlefield, Traverse des Sioux and Marine Hill outdoor trails in the historical sites that are open in Minnesota. 

The decision to reopen Split Rock and Jeffers Petroglyphs, which are primarily outdoor experiences, comes as Gov. Tim Walz lifted restrictions on outdoor spaces and museums. 

MNHS has new protocols in place in hopes of minimizing the risk of spreading COVID-19, such as limiting the number of daily visitors at each site, with advance tickets available starting July 8. 

The historical society will make decisions about the remaining sites based on factors that include current state rules for reopening venues, requirements for cleaning, social distancing and limited capacity, as well as the cost to operate the site, the release said.

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Minnesota Orchestra staff takes pay cuts

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Orchestra announced Wednesday that its musicians have volunteered to temporarily reduce their salaries by 20 percent. 

This comes as the Minnesota Orchestra works to contain costs during the pandemic. 

“Taking care of Orchestra employees as best we can is our priority in the pandemic, and we are grateful that the orchestra received funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program that allowed us to fully compensate full-time musician and staff employees for a period of time,” President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns said in a news release.

"As we implement cost containment strategies for the duration of the fiscal year, I am gratified by the leadership role that musicians played in coming forward to contribute to the effort. These are trying times and difficult measures, and our colleagues in the Orchestra and on staff have responded with great understanding and support.”

These salary reductions, which are tiered throughout the organization, will begin at the end of the month and continue through the end of the fiscal year. They impact all full-time employees, with Burns and Music Director Osmo Vänskä taking a 30 percent reduction, musicians and administrative leadership taking a 20 percent reduction, and all other full-time staff taking reductions "at a lower level."

Meanwhile, 194 part-time events staff have been on hiatus since the orchestra stopped performing in mid-March. They'll only return to active schedules when the orchestra can resume performing concerts. 

Despite the salary reductions, Minnesota Orchestra At Home, which includes digital initiatives and at-home concerts launched by the orchestra to connect virtually with audiences, will continue.

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