Friday, June 4, 2010

Cash-strapped National Cathedral may sell its treasure

From the Houston Chronicle-

Facing a reduced budget and a third round of layoffs, officials at Washington National Cathedral are considering disposing of priceless treasures — including a trove of rare books — that are no longer considered part of its central mission.

The cathedral has begun tentative talks with Washington's Folger Shakespeare Library as it reorients itself as an Episcopal congregation, tourist landmark and promoter of interfaith dialogue.

The cathedral's rare-book library, which dates to 1964, can no longer be considered a “core function” in the current economic climate, said Kathleen Cox, the cathedral's chief operating officer.

“In tough times, you start having to pull away so you can make sure that worship continues,” Cox said. “So once that happens, you have to make sure that you are doing the best by those assets.”
She emphasized that the discussions are “preliminary,” and it would be “premature” to say if items would be sold or loaned.

“What would be an ideal situation is to find … through a partnership someone that might take on the responsibility of conserving and maintaining the books and then having them accessible to the public in some way,” she said. “This has to be consistent with any of the donor restrictions or intents.”

Stephen Enniss, Folger's librarian, said the two institutions have long worked together, with Folger's conservators advising cathedral staff on maintenance of the rare-book collection.
Some tomes in the cathedral's 8,000-volume rare-books collection will definitely stay, Cox said, including the Prince Henry Bible, a first edition of the King James Bible printed in London in 1611 that belonged to Henry, the prince of Wales and the king's eldest son.

The uncertain future of the rare assets — valued in the millions — comes amid a staff shake-up in which six employees were laid off. The cathedral has cut its staff from 170 to 70 since 2008, in large part because the cathedral outsourced its gift shop and discontinued residential courses at the Cathedral College.

More here-

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