Press Release: A letter from Field Museum president Richard Lariviere

My dear colleagues and supporters of the Field Museum,

Over the past several months, the Field Museum has taken extraordinary measures to protect the institution, its collections, employees, and science. I have been humbled by your patience, resourcefulness, and sacrifice throughout. You have gone above and beyond. Unfortunately, there is no clear line of sight as to when and how this turbulent period will end. Because of this, I have some difficult news. 

Over the past two days, directors and managers have informed their teams of layoffs and furloughs. In total, 71 positions have been eliminated, and an additional 56 employees have been furloughed. Of the 71 eliminated positions, 27 belonged to staff who have been laid off, and 17 belonged to employees whose terms will not be renewed when they expire in the coming months. An additional 27 open positions that were in the process of being hired at the start of the pandemic will not be filled. The layoffs and furloughs will be effective as of today, June 12. We hope to bring back the majority of our 56 furloughed employees within six months.

Laid-off employees have been offered a minimum of four weeks’ pay, depending on their time at the museum, as well as continued payment of the Field Museum’s share of their healthcare premiums for the first three months. Furloughed staff will receive an additional four weeks’ pay on their final paycheck to see them through until they can begin receiving unemployment and continued payment of the Field Museum’s share of their healthcare premiums for the first three months. 

In the months since our closure due to COVID-19, we have worked tirelessly to keep our 496-person staff safe and financially secure. 

  • A loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program helped us maintain staff salaries and benefits until now. 
  • We have cut budgets, delayed projects, instituted hiring freezes, and borrowed against our line of credit. 
  • We implemented pay cuts for top earners this spring.
  • The majority of our staff will undergo a 10% reduction in pay beginning in June and reflected in their first paycheck in July. The hourly rates of employees who earn less than $16 per hour will remain unchanged. Staff who earn between $16 and $20 per hour will have their hourly rates reduced by $1.

But without revenue from museum visitors, traveling exhibitions, and space rentals for special events, we face a shortfall of over $20 million dollars this year, or 36% of our operating revenue budget. As a result, we have had to make painful decisions that will affect many of our staff.

These cuts, while heartbreaking, are our clearest path to preserving the museum we all love. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. Every person at the Field is an extraordinary talent, and the museum will be lessened by the absence of staff we have let go. 

To those who are leaving: we are devastated to have to make this decision. Thank you for everything you have done to share the museum with the world and for making the Field a place to be proud of. You will always be a part of the Field Museum family. 

To those who remain: the coming months will be difficult without the support of our departing friends. Thank you for shouldering this burden and maintaining faith in the Field, even at this uncertain and challenging time. We will need to work more collaboratively as we reimagine the Field Museum.

The crisis we are living through accentuates the importance of scientific inquiry, public learning, and facts. The struggles the world is facing—COVID-19, systemic racism, and climate change—are made worse when these ideals are not upheld. That’s why it’s critical we protect the Field Museum so we may continue to build a brighter future rich in nature and culture—the mission each of us helps make possible.

With sadness and gratitude,

Richard W. Lariviere, PhD

President and CEO