How the Government Shutdown Affects Museum Workers

Added to Medium, January 17, 2019

As the government shutdown continues in the United States, federal workers are struggling to financially support themselves and their families. Many museum professionals who work in museums that were not able to be open because of the shutdown are among the federal workers struggling for the past 27 days (as of January 17th). Federal workers are affected in a number of ways by the shutdown.

In a New York Times article, it stated approximately 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay across the country because of the government shutdown. Each state has been affected in varying ways; for instance outside the capital, states with large numbers of workers for the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior are more likely to feel the shutdown’s effects. Also, nearly the entire staff of the Environmental Protection Agency is furloughed, including hundreds of workers in North Carolina and Illinois. The most recent Washington Journal article pointed out that the partial government shutdown is now the longest in modern history and hundreds of thousands of federal workers have started to miss paychecks. The longer the government shutdown lasts, federal workers will continue to suffer and it will get worse if the shutdown persists.

There are businesses and other organizations that are doing what they can to help all federal workers affected by the government shutdown. During tonight’s #MuseumEdChat Twitter discussion, we talked about what opportunities are out there to help federal workers by offering free or discounted services and expressed who and what we are grateful for as we try to be as supportive as possible to our colleagues going through financial strain. One of the examples shared in the discussion was from phone companies:

Q1. We know the #Shutdown is affecting many people, and that many others are stepping in to provide help. If you know of an organization providing discounts/support share them here. Add a # with the location so people can find them along with #MuseumEdChat


AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile is willing to work with those affected on fees. Most banks are also willing to work with affected employees including Bank of America, CHase, DIscover, USAA, most credit unions


A1-Additional. The biggest would be your local food pantry or support organizations. Looking more “global” @WCKitchen. Also, I’ve got Coast Guard family and the fact that this is the first time that armed forces is going without pay bc of shutdown so @CGMutualAssist

Another example is from a university offering free professional development programs for federal workers.


Replying to @Museumptnrs

#MuseumEdChat A1 #Montclair, NJ

MSU Offers Free Program Friday for Federal Employees During Shutdown; Mikie Sherrill To Attend —

In addition to phone companies and universities, there are loan companies offering services for federal workers. According to one of participants in the discussion, there is a loan that federal workers in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area can sign up for:


Hebrew Free Loan is offering $1,250 no-interest, no-fee loans to federal government workers who are not being paid due to the government shutdown. You don’t need to be Jewish to qualify. More info here:

The global museum community is also doing what they can to help federal workers during the government shutdown. I shared a link I found for a GoFundMe page in which MuseumNext is raising money to give Smithsonian federal workers at least a slice of pizza as the government shutdown persists. MuseumNext is a major conference series on the future of museums that takes place annually in Europe, North America and Australia, attracting an engaged, loyal and dynamic audience working in museums, galleries and cultural venues across the globe. According to the page, they stated that they will organize a giant pizza order to deliver those working a lunch on them, which demonstrates that they have the support of the global museum community and that they wish to do something to help. By showing their support, I admire and appreciate that there is a global museum community that will reach out to their overseas colleagues in times of need to do what they can to help and show support.

Outside of the #MuseumEdChat discussion, I also came across a couple of sources to help federal workers as the government shutdown continues to make it harder for them to get basic needs. On the Today show website, Meghan Holohan wrote five ways we can do to help furloughed federal workers during the government shutdown including donating to the food pantry, donate to repair national parks, and call your representatives. Another one I found was from CertifiKid which lists family-friendly government shutdown freebies for federal workers. For example, it lists things to do including:

Monster Mini Golf (Columbia, MD): Free Mini Golf for up to 4 people valid Monday — Thursday until the shutdown ends. Mention CertifiKID and present government ID for each golfer.

There is also a list of restaurants and other entertainment deals to help with the financial burdens federal workers are dealing with, and the list will continue to be updated as soon as they are aware of more deals.

We all need to remember to help one another during these hard times. Federal workers, whether they are in the museums or out of the museums, need as much help as possible to support themselves and their loved ones. If you know someone who is struggling through the government shutdown, please tell them how grateful you are for what they do. Please do whatever you can to help them through these times.


How We Can Show Policymakers and Teachers Our Museums’ Potential as Educational Resources

Added to Medium, June 21, 2018

Museums continue to find ways to develop the relationships and collaborations with schools whether they are private, public, or homeschool. Even though museums are increasingly being seen as educational resources for school curriculums, education policies in the United States suggest that as museum professionals we need to continue to prove how significant museums are for our schools.

To be able to convince education policy makers the significance of museums, we as museum professionals need to have a better understanding of education policies and keep up to date with current education policies. The Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009: A Brief Synopsis, for instance, provides information about education policies in the United States.

Our education policies constantly change to fulfill our need to improve the quality of education in our nation. Education is a state and local responsibility, and yet the federal role in the schools has grown significantly since the mid-twentieth century, and as a result state-federal interactions in the realm of education policy have become increasingly complex. Both the New Deal and World War II contributed dramatically to the size and the scope of federal activities. In 1944, Congress passed the biggest package of federal aid to education to date: the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights which entitled veterans who had served at least ninety days in the armed forces to a year of secondary, special, adult, or college education, plus an additional month of education for each month in the service, up to a total of 48 months.

When Eisenhower became president, the increase in children during the baby boom had caused school districts to request federal aid to increase the number of classrooms and teachers to accommodate more children enrolling in schools. Since the Eisenhower administration, each incoming president of the United States faced various circumstances that led to them changing education policies to accommodate current economic and educational situations.

For instance, we had the No Child Left Behind during the Bush administration and the Every Student Succeeds Act during the Obama administration. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 supported standards-based education reform based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education, and required states to develop assessments in basic skills. According to Julia Kennedy in her article “The Room Where It Happens: How Policy and Perception are at Play in Museum-School Relationships”, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gave incentives for states to adopt academic standards which prepare students to succeed in both college and the workplace, and narrows the government’s role in Elementary and Secondary education.

In the education policies, museums are not mentioned as education resources. While these education policies do not directly affect museums, it is important that museums pay attention to any changes to the policies. Museums and museum groups such as the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) have kept a close eye on the policy in an effort to become a better partner to the formal education sector. Julia Kennedy pointed out that,

“Policy remains a large divider between formal and informal educational institutions because: public schools are at the mercy of policy with state and local standards; museums are loosely legislated and not governed as official educational institutions; and museum’s strengths as places of lifelong learning are not considered when discussing educational policy.

Current and past policy reflects the perception that museums are just an extension of the classroom; and before any real, impactful, collaborative effort or long-standing partnerships can happen, the relationship between these two institutions must be examined. “

Before we can convince policy makers museums have a ton of potential, we need to get the evidence by strengthening the relationships between museums and schools.

One of the articles that was posted on the American Alliance of Museums was written about how museums can improve the relationship between museums and schools from a teacher’s perspective. There are many complications in planning field trips for both museums and schools; the article described the teachers perspective on the challenges of planning field trips. Meg Davis pointed out it takes time, resources, and local expertise for teachers to plan field trips. To make sure a field trip happens, teachers have to navigate complex websites to find out costs, scheduling protocol and basic logistical details; then afterwards, teachers have to reach out to the organization to schedule the field trip, and that takes additional few days or weeks of back and forth so field trips teachers end up planning are ones that feel easy.

Davis suggested making a few changes to position museums as partners in the future of schools. The changes she suggested in the article were divided into three categories: on the website, in communication, and support students.

On the website, Davis suggested the website should highlight the alignment of each learning experience clearly so the teacher can quickly and easily explain what objective they can achieve through the field trip to their administrators and therefore will have an easier time getting approval. Also, it is important to list logistical information right on the website so teachers will know where the students can eat lunch, use the bathroom, and any offsite places the museum recommends so planning the field trip would be less intimidating. She also revealed that it would be helpful to offer a pre-trip preview so teachers can visit and have the opportunity to plan logistics and objects they want to highlight in advance.

When museums communicate with teachers, museum professionals scheduling field trips should shorten the feedback loop and communicate asynchronously. Davis explained that museum professionals should respond to requests in between 24 and 48 hours and if staff is part-time we should make sure it is indicated when staff is able to schedule field trips so that way teachers would be able to expect a delay and can communicate with their teams accordingly. Also, make sure there is an opportunity to make it easier for teachers to have time to make field trip arrangements since 90 percent of teachers have limited time during the day to answer a call or send an email.

To support students attending the field trips, routines should be facilitated and supplementary materials should be provided to the students. Davis pointed out that “If you have specific routines that teachers and students can follow when they arrive or move through your space, it makes the inherently hectic nature of shepherding 30 students through a new place feel calmer.” Since students are used to routines in the classroom, it will be easier for students to understand there are routines at the museums and to facilitate the visit. Also, if they are not doing so already museums should provide supplementary materials such as pre/post trip materials so students would be prepared with questions before they arrive to the museum. By making various changes and tweaks, museum programs would become more accessible to teachers and the museum-school partnerships will continue to grow and strengthen.

As we continue to advocate for museums and its educational mission, we need to continue to keep in mind what is going on in education policies to strengthen our knowledge of what we can do to better help schools.

What do you think of the educational policies? What is your reaction to the teacher’s perspective of the educational programming in museums?

Meg Davis, Founder, Explorable Places, “Meeting Teachers Where They Are”,
Julia Kennedy, “The Room Where It Happens: How Policy and Perception are at Play in Museum-School Relationships”, Museum Scholar Theory and Practice, Vol. 1, June 19, 2018.