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Museum Layoffs Include Gardener, Slave History Expert


A second round of layoffs at the Virginia Historical Society includes seven people who worked in the museum's operations, programs and collections divisions, including former the Horticulture Director Scott Burrell and former Curator of Prints and Photographs Jeffrey Ruggles.

The positions were eliminated May 24, says Paul Levengood, chief executive of the society. The layoffs are part of a reorganization that “has been planned and discussed and talked about for a number of months,” he says.

“There's no financial crisis, but I don't want there to be a financial crisis at some point,” Levengood says. “We need to be able to make sure that we are in a great position come five, 10, 15 years.”

Historian Ruggles is an expert on the slave history of Shockoe Bottom and the author of “The Unboxing of Henry Brown,” which details the life of Virginia slave and abolitionist Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped to freedom in a shipped box.

According to an e-mail about Burrell's layoff obtained by Style Weekly, the horticulturalist has worked at the historical society for 28 years, managing the museum's grounds and the gardens at Virginia House, built from the stones of a 16th-century English structure. Virginia House overlooks the James River.

Virginia House switched from general-admission hours to admission by appointment in 2009; Levengood says the historical society will continue to have dedicated staff working on the site's gardens.

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