Carnegie Museum of Natural History offers buyouts to curators

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More than a half-dozen senior curators at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History were offered buyouts this week during a Monday staff meeting.

David Hillenbrand, interim president of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, also announced that on Jan. 1 he will become the Natural History Museum's interim director. Maureen Rolla, a former longtime employee of Carnegie Museum of Art, will be director of strategic initiatives. 

Mr. Hillenbrand told staff gathered in the museum's Earth Theater that a new natural history director cannot be hired until Carnegie Institute trustees, who oversee all four museums, select a new president for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. That's because directors of all four museums -- Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum -- report to the president.

Mr. Hillenbrand, a retired Bayer executive, was president of Carnegie Museums from 2005 to 2011. On Jan. 1 of this year, he became interim president, replacing John Wetenhall, who left a year ago following 17 months as president.

Betsy Momich, a spokeswoman for the museums, said she would not comment on employee matters or answer buyout questions.

"The people they are picking out include our most productive scientists. Happy Thanksgiving, huh?" said Mary Dawson, a curator emeritus who answered her phone Wednesday. She retired in 2011 but still comes into the vertebrate paleontology department almost every day.

Employees who are older than 50 and have 10 years of service are potentially eligible for the buyout. They include Dave Berman, curator of vertebrate paleontology; K. Christopher Beard, curator of vertebrate paleontology; Sandra Olsen, curator of anthropology; Cynthia Morton, curator of botany; John Rawlins, curator of invertebrate zoology; John Wible, curator of mammals; Marc Wilson, head of minerals; Timothy Pearce, curator of mollusks; and Chen Young, curator of invertebrate zoology. Annual salaries for natural history museum curators range from about $60,000 to $90,000.

Correction, posted Dec. 10, 2013: In an earlier version of this story, Maureen Rolla's title was incorrect.

Marylynne Pitz: or 412-263-1648.

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