The Science Museum of Minnesota has announced that it is shifting to online-only programming, while temporarily laying off 87% of its employees to curb expenses and maintain the long-term viability of one of Minnesota’s most significant scientific and cultural resources.
On Friday, March 13, the Science Museum temporarily closed to the public following guidance by Governor Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health to help slow the spread of COVID-19. “Closing was the right decision for the health and safety of our employees, volunteers and visitors, but it is creating a financial hardship during our busiest time of the year,” said CEO Alison Brown. “Temporarily laying off employees was a tough decision. It is unfortunately necessary as we consider the long-term viability of the museum.” The layoffs take effect on April 2. The Science Museum has been paying employees at their wage rate since March 13 and will continue to pay medical benefits through April 30.
The Science Museum has more than 500 employees; a modest number of employees will remain to provide essential functions such as security and maintenance and to provide online programming for teachers and families. The museum works with schools in all 87 Minnesota counties throughout the year to provide outreach programs and field trips. It will now shift its focus to delivering those experiences and information online during the pandemic. Resources are available now on smm.org; new content will be added daily.
“Accurate and relevant scientific information is needed in our society now more than ever,” said Brown. “The Science Museum plays a leading role in engaging our community in science, which is so important in situations that require evidence-based decisions, like this pandemic. We are working quickly to make our STEM resources and learning programs available online and widely accessible.”
The Science Museum is also asking donors to continue to provide financial support and contact their state and federal legislators to ensure cultural institutions are included in emergency economic relief legislation.
“We are operating off of a 12-week closure plan,” said Brown. “We hope that it doesn’t last that long, but we are also planning for if it needs to last even longer. This is a challenging time for everyone, and we are doing everything we can to protect this cultural resource for Minnesotans.”