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Bishop Museum cuts staff, hours


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POSTED: Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Bishop Museum is trying to reduce more than $1 million in operating costs and will lay off and furlough staff and temporarily shut down the Hawaii Maritime Center at Aloha Tower, the museum said yesterday.

The Bishop Museum in Kapalama will also close every Tuesday beginning May 1. It is the first time the museum will reduce its hours to the public since it was founded in 1889 to house the extensive collection of artifacts and royal family heirlooms of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the Kamehameha family.

“;It's a difficult time. We're not immune to the effects of the economic downturn,”; said Blair Collis, the museum's senior vice president and chief operating officer.

Officials have yet to determine how many museum staff will be laid off and furloughed. All actions will take effect May 1.

Collis said they are trying to estimate revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. The museum's current revenue projection is $14.3 million, but that estimate is not being supported by incoming revenues due to a significant drop in tourism, Collis said.

A manager, sales associate and a deckhand who maintains the maritime center will be affected by the temporary closure. It is unknown how long the center located at Honolulu Harbor's Pier 7 will remain closed.

The museum has operated the maritime center since 1988. Workers conducted tours aboard the Falls of Clyde vessel docked next to the center before the ship was deemed unsafe in January 2007 due to dilapidated conditions.

The ship was sold last fall to the Friends of Falls of Clyde by the Bishop Museum. Members of the community-based group hope to dry-dock the vessel in Kalaeloa in a couple of months. Calls made to the marine center for comment were referred to the Bishop Museum.

The closure of the maritime center, reduction in the museum's public hours and layoffs and furloughs are estimated to save about 10 percent of the museum's operating budget. Collis said they are looking into additional ways to trim costs that include cutting programs and reducing electricity costs. Already, officials reduced travel and hired less personnel.

The Bishop Museum is open daily except Christmas.

Officials laid off 14 people in June due to financial constraints.