Margaret Mitchell House and Museum…

HISTORY

Most of Margaret Mitchell House staff laid off

 

 Margaret Mitchell House and Museum

 

Atlanta History Center makes job cuts

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

The Atlanta History Center cut 15 employees from its 74-member staff on Monday as part of a museum-wide belt-tightening.

 

Though staff reductions are not a thunderous surprise in this economy, the fact that seven of those let go were employees of the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum — reducing its staff to a single person — set off alarms among aficionados.    (Click on ‘Continue Reading’ for more)

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Opened as a historic landmark in 1997, the house where author Margaret Mitchell penned most of “Gone with The Wind” has become an important literary hub. Not only a host to established authors, it has created many programs to encourage writing and reading.

 

“I’m shocked,” said Philip Rafshoon, owner of nearby Outwrite Bookstore. “It would be a real blow to the literary community if they curtailed the programs there.”

 

History Center President and CEO Sal Cilella emphasized Tuesday that the Margaret Mitchell House would not close. The center’s Buckhead staff will manage the Midtown facility, a long-range eventuality, he said, that economic troubles sped up. All grant-funded programs, such as an outreach program with libraries and schools, will be honored, he said.

 

But Cilella wouldn’t comment on the future of particular programs at either facility. He said further cost reductions would be necessary to address a $1.4 million deficit the museum faces. “Everything is on the table,” he said. “Every program will be reviewed.”

 

The museum, he said, will use its market studies in making cutback decisions. “We know what people want,” he said. “My anticipation is that the public won’t even notice the transition.”

 

This “sad day,” he said, was “a response to the economy.” The center’s endowment, which had reached $67 million, has fallen to $44 million. Revenues from event bookings are also down.

 

The museum had to cancel its planned November 2009 exhibit “Lee and Grant” because it couldn’t line up a corporate sponsor. The economic bright spots — visitation, membership and its donations to the annual appeal — were not enough to fill the gap.

 

“Nonprofits are a three-legged stool,” he explained. “You’ve got earned income, unearned income and endowment” — and all three have taken a hit, he said.

 

“This is the perfect storm.”

 

The Mitchell House was built as a single family home in 1899 and was turned into apartments in 1919. Mitchell and her husband lived there between 1925 and 1932. While there, she wrote most of her best-selling novel-turned-movie about Atlanta during the Civil War, “Gone With the Wind.”

 

After a series of setbacks, including a pair of arson fires, the Mitchell House opened as a museum in 1997. It offers tours that includes Mitchell’s apartment and houses The Center for Southern Literature, which hosts readings and book discussions with visiting authors.

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