Society changes focus to deal with cuts

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COLUMBUS — The Ohio Historical Society is accelerating a plan to reinvent itself as a state history organization, according to executive director and CEO Bill Laidlaw.

Support slashed

State support was slashed from $13.5 million two years ago to $7.9 million for the 2010 fiscal year — a 42-percent cut — following years of underinvestment by the state. As a result, the society will make significant changes to the state history museum, the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, as well as continue its efforts to find local groups to manage 10 of its historic sites and museums around the state.

Earlier this year, a number of cost-saving measures were taken, such as a weeklong furlough, a reduction in force and seeking local groups to manage larger Ohio Historical Society sites in response to a 10-percent reduction for fiscal year 2009. However, further actions are needed, including eliminating more jobs across the organization, reorganizing or eliminating programs and additional furloughs.

“While we foresaw tough times ahead, we were stunned to receive this magnitude of a cut in state funding,” Laidlaw said. “Once again, we were forced to make difficult decisions, but with challenges come opportunities. Our board of trustees has approved a bold plan that will position the organization for future growth by providing the strongest return on investment for limited state dollars as well as the greatest public value for Ohioans.”

Changes

As a result of the changing priorities and to make the best use of reduced state funding, the society will take these measures:

– Accommodate the development of the Collection Learning Center, by limiting hours for both the Ohio Historical Center’s museum and the archives/library starting Jan. 1, 2010, through March 1, 2011.

– The museum only will be open to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

– The Ohio Historical Society Archives-Library will be open Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

– Enhance its Web presence with an Ohio history online portal to increase access to information and services as well as to generate revenue.

– Cease publication of Timeline, the quarterly history magazine published by the Ohio Historical Society, at the end of it 25th-anniversary year unless private funding can be secured for future publication.

– Special events will not be scheduled at the Ohio Historical Center and Ohio Village from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2010.

– Mandate 10 furlough days for all employees before the end of the fiscal year. As a part of the restructuring, 31 full- and part-time positions have been eliminated. Of this total, 19 vacant positions will not be filled. In addition, 16 employees were notified of a decrease in their hours.

Separately, 53 positions will be eliminated by the end of the year as sites transition to the management of local groups.

About

Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture.

Business hours for the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Preservation Office, both located at the Ohio Historical Center, will remain the same: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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