Field Museum Curators Offered Early Retirement to Reduce Debt

Curators have until May 10 to accept or reject offer

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Chicago's Field Museum.

    Chicago's renowned Field Museum, long a major center of global scientific research, is offering early retirement to more than half its curators as part of a wide-ranging effort to reduce debt and refocus the mission of one of the city's top cultural attractions.

    The natural history museum has offered the incentive -- immediate retirement or a phased-in retirement over two to three years -- to 16 of 27 curators, spokeswoman Nancy O'Shea said Thursday. Those eligible are 55 or older and have at least 10 years on the job. The must decide by May 10 if they'll accept the offer, O'Shea said.

    The Field Museum, founded in 1893, is known for its research into plants and animals and for its impressive collections, including Sue, the world's largest and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex.

    Officials announced in December that they would try to cut costs by $5 million and increase the museum's endowment by $100 million by cutting staff, overhauling operations and limiting the scope of its research.

    Museum officials have said they also might change hours of operation and raise admission prices for special exhibits at one of the city's best-known cultural attractions. They also said the museum will focus more on its own collections and be more selective in choosing outside exhibits that cost more money to organize.

    The cost-cutting plan follows earlier attempts to trim $5 million, also primarily through staff cuts. But rising bond debt and operating deficits during the past decade have combined with flat revenues and dwindling government subsidies to put a financial squeeze on the institution, officials have said.

    O'Shea said the museum already has reduced costs by $2 million on the science side, and the retirement incentives could help the museum toward its goal of cutting another $1 million in that area. The other $2 million in savings would come from other areas, she said.

    "We are trying to tighten our belt and find ways to cut costs, and this is one of those efforts," she said.