As a result of citywide budget cuts, the Danbury Museum and Historical Society has been forced to place two salaried employees on furlough. Brigid Guertin, Director, and Levi Newsome, administrative staff, will continue to serve the museum on a volunteer basis.
“This is purely a financial decision. It is ill advised for us to continue with paid staff. At this time, we cannot continue to maintain the buildings and the museum with salaries. The primary paid staff has been Brigid and Levi,” said Museum board member Robert Young.
“This is my hometown,” said Guertin. “This is where I grew up. This is the history that I love. The museum isn't going to close, we will continue to be a resource for the city and the town. In these economic times, we have been so grateful to the city for the continuation of the museum.”
The museum is a well known resource for school field trips, and Guertin hopes the Cultural Commission will continue to offer their support of those programs. “The Board will meet June 14 for Strategic Planning to figure out how we can continue to operate five days a week,” said Guertin.
Newsome said, “This place is like a second home to me. I love it. I love history. To have played an important part in the present history in Danbury, I feel very honored. When you find your life's work, your life is complete. It's like a calling. Brigid was born for this job.”
Guertin said, “This can be a positive time of rebuilding. We are working together as a team to alleviate the situation for the museum.”
The decision was made Tuesday night by the Museum Board, but this move has been in discussions for many months. Guertin has been part of the decision process and attended all board meetings.
“If you want to talk about leaving your footprint on society, well, this museum is Brigid's footprint. She has been like the CEO and the lynchpin in the community. I don't know how it can work without her,” said Young, who called Guertin's impact on the museum tremendous.
As of June 1, to contact the museum, send all emails to email@example.com. All history research inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org to the attention of Diane Hassan. The email addresses for bguertin@danburyhistorical and lnewsome@danburyhistorical will no longer be active.
“Levi Newsome is Mr. Wonderful,” continued Young. “He has been here since '01. At that time we needed someone day to day, and he has been here for ten years. There are always so many projects going on, but when you get to the bottom of it, it always comes back to these two names, Brigid and Levi.”
“Many state museums have been closed down because they lost state money. We don't receive state money,” said Young. “There is no major source of revenue other than the city.”
Brian Stevens, archivist at Western Connecticut State University, said he heard about the cuts Thursday. He said he is worried about the future of the Historical Society's archives.
"I wonder if they understand the implications of closing an archival collection," Stevens said. "I was really surprised because I thought they were on a sound footing."
The historical museum and society had been funded by the city at a higher level years ago. After the city reduced its contributions in the early 2000s, the Mayor's Ball contributed money to the museum.
Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said he thought this was a temporary financial problem brought on by the end of the fiscal year, and he said after July 1 the staff will probably be back in place.
"The new fiscal year starts July 1. This is a furlough," Boughton said.