HSU Natural History Museum to close



HSU Natural History Museum HSU today issued the following press release announcing the upcoming "permanent" closure if its Natural History Museum at G and 13th streets in Arcata "due to this year's severe and unprecedented state budget cuts":

Humboldt State University will be forced to close its Natural History Museum permanently by the end of August. The closure is due to this year's severe and unprecedented state budget cuts to the California State University system.

Museum staff were informed of the decision beforehand and volunteers and supporters were being contacted by the campus. A plan for the museum's orderly closing, which will likely extend well beyond the last day of being open to the public, is being finalized.

The decision was made after many months of difficult discussions about the museum's finances and the ability of the university to adequately fund it. It had been perennially underfunded even before the most recent budget cuts. The museum staff had estimated a year ago that an additional $200,000 annually was needed to finance the operation on a sustaining basis.

In a year when major cuts are being made across campus, that type of new funding is not available.

"This is really a shame. Even with all the budget limitations, they've been doing very good work, and have been an important asset for the community." said Steve Smith, Associate Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Sciences, which oversees the museum.

"There were many staff, donors, volunteers and community organizations that strongly supported and partnered with the museum," Smith said. "We really appreciate all they have done. But unfortunately, we are confronted with the most serious budget crisis in the CSU's history, and cuts like this are unavoidable."

He thanked the museum's long-time Director, Melissa Zielinski, as well as the staff, volunteers and donors "for their earnest and unstinting support across many years."

Located in a university-owned building in downtown Arcata, the museum opened to the public in 1989. It offers exhibits and programs to teach community members of all ages about the natural world, and serves as a learning laboratory for Humboldt State students. Decisions about the future use of its building, the museum's collections and related issues are pending.

Estimated savings from the closure are relatively small, about $26,000 annually. The overriding issue was future viability and the challenge of remaining open with inadequate funding. A detailed internal analysis conducted a year ago concluded that the museum "was barely solvent" and could not continue to function as it had in the past. Pending staff departures made the challenge even greater.

The closure of the museum comes as Humboldt State struggles to absorb its share of recent state budget cuts to the California State University system.

The system's state funding has been reduced to $1.6 billion this year. That's nearly $600 million lower than a decade ago, and creates a funding shortfall of $564 million even after the receipt of significant federal stimulus funds.

For Humboldt State, that means a reduction of about $12 million in a $102 million general fund budget. Actions already taken at the system and campus levels to address some of the shortfall include student fee increases, eliminating spring admissions, unpaid employee furloughs, hiring freezes, administrative salary freezes and reductions in equipment purchases.

Additional cuts will be necessary, and students will face elimination of many classes as well as reduced services this fall.

More information about Humboldt State's current fiscal emergency is available at its Budget Office website, www.humboldt.edu/~budget.


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