ERM to lay off employees and limit opening hours for budgetary reasons

The Estonian National Museum (ERM) building in Tartu.
The Estonian National Museum (ERM) building in Tartu. Source: Estonian National Museum

Regardless of state support, the Estonian National Museum (ERM) has to make cuts totalling close to €500,000 this year. In addition to likely layoffs, the museum will be open on five days a week instead of the current six, starting in September.

Most of the ERM's budget comes from the state budget. This year, the museum intends to make a total of €2.1 million of independent income, but due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the museum now has to account for €900,000 in lost income.

The state rushed to support cultural institutions but Director of ERM Alar Karis said it was not enough. ERM also gains income from their catering service, gift shop and rentals of rooms. The lost income coming from those was not compensated by the Ministry of Culture. ERM received a total of €400,000 in state support.

Karis told ERR: "We still have to pay for our fairy tale exhibition from that €400,000. From that point on, realistically, there is no more support to use."

Because of that, the museum had to find ways to make budgetary cuts totalling up to €500,000.

Karis said: "And we've made the difficult decision that we have to lay off some people, especially from the restaurant and gift shop. We have to look for solutions and those solutions can be either bad or really bad."

Six employees of the 140 currently employed in ERM have received a layoff notice. Karis does not yet know if more people have to be laid off or if the state will allocate further support and some people can be called back. Six people will not make up the €500,000 however.

The director of ERM added: "The problem might not just be the coronavirus. It amplified problems. Financing of ERM has been an issue ever since the development of the new building."

In addition to layoffs, some available positions will remain unfilled. A planned exhibition has also been delayed until next year.

Karis said: "Which is also not reasonable, considering that a museum is for exhibiting items and knowledge, and not for being empty."

The museum also plans to limit opening hours. Karis said that starting from September, ERM will be open for five days a week, instead of the current six. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the museum will be closed, along with many other Tartu museums like the Tartu Art Museum, Tartu City Museum and the Estonian Sports and Olympic Museum.

Karis said: "We won't have additional expenses for overtime, meaning we will be open for the traditional eight hours, forty hours a week. We'll see how that goes. There's always the possibility to reopen if demand is high. But I think that the guests that would come here on an autumn Tuesday can come on other days. I think it shouldn't be a problem."

The museum hopes to reach a zero in their budget by year's end, even if no further state support is received. Karis can not yet comment on how much the WRC Rally Estonia will help ERM. He notes that there are still details to be agreed on with the rally organizers.

Karis: "By preliminary info, the international organization (International Automobile Federation - ed.) wants us to close for ten days, which is not okay to me as a museum director. If ERM was open, it would bring rally fans who wouldn't normally come here and would also introduce Estonian culture to the drivers."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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