Minnesota Historical Society to trim jobs, boost entry fees

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2011 - 10:39 PM

Minnesota Historical Society to trim jobs, boost entry fees at Mill City Museum, Fort Snelling and other sites.

Expect to pay a dollar more per person at most state-run historic sites and museums later this year, the result of changes announced Wednesday by the Minnesota Historical Society. The society also will eliminate 19 full-time staff positions.

The changes are to help accommodate a $1.6 million cut in state government funding, the state agency said.

The $1 admission fee hikes for the general public begin Dec. 1. They apply to such attractions as the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Historic Fort Snelling and Mill City Museum in Minneapolis.

In addition, tour guides at the State Capitol in St. Paul will begin encouraging voluntary donations for the free public tours.

The 19 jobs represent 10 percent of the Historical Society's 190 jobs funded by the state's general fund, and about 6 percent of its 325 total positions.

Stephen Elliott, the society's director and CEO, said the organization remains "sharply focused" on serving Minnesotans, preserving history for future generations and educating schoolchildren.

"Our goal in facing the state's budget crisis is to continue to provide the best possible service, while developing innovative and efficient ways to carry out our mission," he said.

The society operates 26 historic sites and museums, a library, several collections, state archives, educational programs, historic preservation and statewide outreach programs.

The across-the-board $1 fee increases will raise admission at the history center, Fort Snelling and Mill City Museum to $11 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, and $6 for children ages 6-17. The last admission increase was in the spring of 2008.

Hours for historic sites and museums will not be changed.

Member rates, which are usually free, and the annual membership fee will remain the same.

There will also be no admission increases for students visiting historic sites and museums on school field trips.

Elliott said the job cuts will come mainly in areas of acquiring and processing historic materials, and in human resources, marketing and development.

Most of the positions have been vacated in recent months from a combination of attrition and a voluntary separation program, he said. Four will involve layoffs.

Funding from the state, which slid from $22 million last year to $20.4 million for fiscal year 2012, comprises more than half of the society's annual operating budget.

Last year it also received about $15.5 million from admissions and other sales, donations, endowment income and sales taxes authorized by the Legacy Amendment for arts and cultural heritage programs.

Since 2001, legislators have decreased state funding for the society's operating budget by nearly 25 percent, and about 25 percent of its full-time staff positions have been eliminated.

During the same period, the society reduced by 30 percent its hours of service to the public at historic sites and at its library in St. Paul.

"We're just doing everything we can to get lean, lean, lean in a way that has the least impact on our visitors and patrons," Elliott said.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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