Gov. Jim Doyle recently said the society must cut 10 percent of its budget for the 2005-2007 year period. Society officials voted 23-1 Thursday in favor of the new budget plan, which stipulates what programs will be cut in order to meet Doyle’s approval.
“What we would do is eliminate $900,604,” Bob Granflaten, public information officer for the Historical Society, said. “We’d eliminate 13.75 positions, most from the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It would require the closure of the museum on the Capital Square.”
The museum is the focus of the cuts because Doyle urged the society to focus on eliminating certain programs or locations instead of making cuts across the board.
“Basically, he asked the agencies to take a look at their operations and see if there were areas where there were services being duplicated and any areas they thought should be saved,” Melanie Fonder, spokesperson for Doyle’s office, said.
Despite the budget plan the society’s board voted to submit, the Historical Society has agreed to fight the cuts in any way they can.
“Even before that vote was taken, the board voted unanimously that whatever cuts were taken would be opposed by the Historical Society,” Granflaten said. “We’ve taken serious cuts in the last three go-a-rounds. We are bare bones right now.”
Many worry about the impact of the projected cuts on the University of Wisconsin, which houses certain library materials with the society.
Granflaten said, however, the libraries and archives have faced significant cuts in the past and will be spared in the new round of budget negotiations.
“The Historical Society cuts have very much affected the UW-Madison libraries, but those are the cuts they have taken in the past,” Ken Frazier, director of the UW Library System, said. “We’ve witnessed some real loss of capability over time but the proposed cuts are designed to focus on the museum.”
While the future looks dismal to some society members, Fonder said plans are still very early in the process.
“We know that the Historical Society is a very important asset to the state of Wisconsin. [The cuts] will be looked at very closely across the board,” she said.
The board has considered the possibility of building a large historical center at the site of the current museum. The society hopes to have some kind of structure take the place of the museum if its decision nears approval.
“The Museum’s collections and exhibits have, since the beginning of the historical society, documented and interpreted Wisconsin history,” Granflaten said. “If we have to close the museum there will be a giant gap in the timeline of Wisconsin history.”