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News / March 1, 2013

Updated: National Gallery of Canada Eliminates 29 Positions

The National Gallery of Canada is among 56 Canadian institutions joining Twitter's Museum Week. The National Gallery of Canada is among 56 Canadian institutions joining Twitter's Museum Week.

Yesterday, the National Gallery of Canada announced in a press release that it was eliminating 29 existing positions and creating 7 new ones in a series of changes to its organizational structure.

The organizational changes, the release said, were “in response to a need to address a long-range budget shortfall,” among other concerns such as visitor experience and revenue generation.

MetroNews Canada reported that:

Marc Mayer, director and CEO of The National Gallery of Canada, said 21 workers were laid off and two staffers were retiring.

Among the people let go were six librarians. Other affected workers were in the IT, communications, and protection services departments as the gallery is faced with a $2.5 million shortfall.

The Ottawa Citizen reported that the library cuts reduce the gallery’s library staff by one-third, and that Mayer said these were in line with library layoffs at other North American museums. The Citizen also noted the following:

The gallery has just started work on its most costly undertaking since it opened in the 1988 — the replacement of all the windows enclosing the Great Hall and the reconstruction of 13 roofs within the massive skylight. The work will continue until mid-December.

During the construction work, Mayer said the gallery is projecting much lower than usual attendance — and hence lower revenues — which was another factor in the layoffs.

“People are scared away by construction sites,” he said. “We’ve seen that in our other colleagues across the country when they’re under construction. They do get seriously reduced attendance.”

“Our decisions were guided by the gallery’s commitment to its principal role of building a national collection of art, maintaining it professionally and making it accessible to Canadians through exhibitions and programs of the highest quality,” Mayer said in the February 28 release.

The release stated that the Canadians in general “will see no diminishment in the services delivered by the gallery” due to consolidation of activities and the use of IT to increase productivity. The seven new positions will primarily support the gallery’s revenue generation and visitor engagement objectives.

The announcement comes just a few months before the gallery is due to be a lead partner in the presentation of Shary Boyle at the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Past reporting by the CBC indicates that the National Gallery of Canada also laid off five curators in June 2011 and cut 27 positions in March 2010.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

UPDATE – March 1, 2013, 1:13 p.m.: A spokesperson from the National Gallery of Canada has detailed, via email, the elimination of positions as follows: “Six of the positions eliminated were vacant and two will not be filled following retirement, resulting in 21 full-time employees being separated. Reductions are being made throughout the organization, including six positions in the Library group; four positions in the Exhibitions and Installations group, nine positions in Administration, Finance, Human Resources, and Corporate Secretariat; and ten positions in the Publishing, New Media and Distribution group.”

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via