Glenbow Museum temporarily lays off more than 80% of staff due to closure

Glenbow Museum, which is closed due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, has laid off more than 80 per cent of its staff. 

The museum has been closed since March 13 and the temporary layoffs will take effect on Friday.

The Glenbow has 100 employees, and 83 per cent were affected, including full-time, part-time, casual staff and management, a spokesperson said. 

"Glenbow's leadership recognizes that this unprecedented health and economic crisis puts intense pressure on the museum's finances," the museum said in an emailed release on Wednesday.

It said more than 60 per cent of its operating budget comes from museum admissions, from daily visitors, school programs, event rentals, shop sales and donations.

Arts more important in times of crisis, president says

"Museums are human-centred spaces that depend on our people to activate art and objects and share their relevance with the community. This is a temporary measure to combat the impact of the current crisis and we fervently hope that our team will be able to regroup on the other side," president and CEO Nicholas R. Bell said in the release.

"Museums and cultural spaces are community nexus points, and part of our role is addressing and interpreting the experience during times of crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. The arts are more important than ever; they bring us together and teach us resilience and creativity in the face of enormous challenges."

The museum said it's unsure when it will be able to reopen and that both the cancelled school year and declines in local and international tourism will require a radical rethink in how to move forward. 

The Glenbow is not only Calgary's largest art and history museum, but it maintains one of the largest non-governmental archives in Canada. It also is home to tens of thousands of books and art pieces.

It wasn't the only Calgary institution to announce mass layoffs on Wednesday. The National Music Centre announced that it is temporarily laying off 77 per cent of its staff.

There were 419 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta as of Wednesday afternoon.