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Museum of City of New York to Acquire Seaport Museum

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UPDATE: On Thursday afternoon, the Board of Trustees of the Museum of the City of New York voted to approve an agreement that would place the management and budget of the Seaport Museum in the hands of the City Museum. The City Museum will begin its role via an interim agreement that will last from up to 18 months — a period in which to test the long-term feasibility of its plan.

The Museum of the City of New York will acquire the Seaport Museum New York, according to museum officials.

 "The Seaport Museum's board of trustees and I are extremely pleased about this outcome, and we are confident that the way has been paved for a smooth transition to new leadership," said Frank Sciame, chairman of the Seaport Museum. "With the challenging financial environment our city and country are facing, and the fact that our two institutions already share compatible missions, this is a relationship that makes good sense."

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has given the Museum of the City of New York a $2 million grant for the takeover.

The Seaport Museum has long been in financial dire straits. This past spring, 21 board trustees resigned and the cash-strapped museum laid off half its staff. Since then, museum officials have sought financial help from city officials.

Members of the Save Our Seaport coalition were excited about the news.

"It's looking a lot better than it's looked in a while," said David Sheldon, a member of the coalition's steering committee who has volunteered at the Seaport Museum for ten years.

Still, Sheldon said that the Save Our Seaport coalition would not be disbanding.

"We're enthusiastic but a lot of work remains for everyone to make the Seaport Museum work," he said.

Former Seaport Museum trustee and Columbia University history professor Kenneth T. Jackson said although he was happy with the move, both museums would face challenges going forward.

"Looks like a little bit of a shotgun marriage," Jackson said. "It's not easy to merge two private institutions which have different accounting systems, different personnel, different mission statements, different collections, different geographical locations. So it's not going to be an easy task."

The Museum of the City of New York did not give WNYC details on the acquisition by press time.

The Seaport Museum.

(The Seaport Museum. Photo by Jim Henderson)

Updated 4:15 PM