On Monday, April 8, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania announced the layoff of ten staff members, representing a 30% reduction in its workforce. The job loss is part of an action plan approved by the Board of Councilors to reduce operating expenses.
“My thoughts and sympathies are with the staff members whose roles were eliminated today,” says interim president and CEO Charles T. Cullen. “Our employees bring talent and heart to their jobs, and I am deeply grateful for their service. With a leaner team in place, we will be refocusing our efforts on the core of our mission: serving as a research library and archive.”
HSP will remain open to researchers and many services will be unaffected by the changes. Regular library hours will remain unchanged, and the reading room will continue to welcome researchers. Fellowships will still be offered, and grant-funded projects will continue as planned. The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, HSP’s long-running scholarly journal, will maintain its regular publication schedule.
Some of HSP’s programs and service will be put on hold until the organization is on stronger financial footing. Pennsylvania Legacies, HSP’s biannual public history magazine, will pause publication after the Spring 2019 edition, which has just been released. Educational programming will be significantly reduced.
“HSP has operated for 195 years, and even in this difficult time we are committed to keeping our doors open so researchers can access the unparalleled collections in our care,” says board chair Bruce K. Fenton. “By taking these steps now, it is our hope that HSP can enter a period of financial recovery and careful planning for its future.”
HSP has spent the last 3 years implementing a new strategic plan that expanded outreach and programming, both for the public and for scholars, in a move to more effectively promote the use of its unmatched American history collections. As part of this plan, the board and leadership advocated collaboration with other cultural institutions in the Philadelphia area, and believed a close relationship with an academic institution would be mutually beneficial.
“Our active interest in forming a close alliance with an academic institution has not ended, but the protracted nature of the exploration was unexpected, and has contributed to a lack of clarity as to our recently adopted mission,” Cullen explains. “The combination of uncertain mission and continuing transition mode has created a challenging fundraising atmosphere, leading to operating deficits and increasing difficulty in achieving financial stability.”
In the coming weeks HSP will continue to review operations and announce any additional changes in service as quickly as possible.