Book Review: For Love or Money Confronting the State of Museum Salaries

January 21, 2021

MuseumsEtc, an independent publishing house based in Edinburgh and Boston on books for museum and gallery professionals, published the book For Love or Money: Confronting the State of Museum Salaries edited by Dawn E Salerno, Mark S. Gold, and Kristina L Durocher. I chose this book because museum salary is still a relevant topic in the field, and I have wanted to write this book review for a while. Now I am glad that I am re-visiting this book since I am going to be writing more book reviews for this blog. I recommend checking out this book, especially for individuals who are new to the museum field, since each section is incredibly detailed in the topic of what is going on for museum salaries.

            It is also a relevant topic now as the pandemic hit the museum field hard (like most if not all professional fields). Many museum professionals faced layoffs, furloughs, salary cuts, schedules cut, et. cetera when museums closed or continue to offer online experiences as a result of the pandemic. There are some that have re-opened their sites to limited capacity and some even require purchasing tickets ahead of the visit. As we continue to move forward, we need to revisit museum salaries. We as a museum field need to continue to make progress in equity for gender and salary, and having these conversations as well as sharing our thoughts, ideas, and actions are important steps in improving the state of the museum field.

Cover of For Love or Money: Confronting the State of Museum Salaries

For Love or Money is a collection of chapters written by various museum professionals within the museum field. Inside the book, there are twenty-four chapters and are divided into four sections: the state of museum salaries, causes and effects, addressing the issues, and turning talk into action. There are at least 29 museum professionals who have contributed their thoughts and research to this book.

            I appreciate that not only are there table charts but also cartoon depictions to illustrate and stress the points being made inside the book. In Taryn R Nie’s “Far Too Female: Museums on the Edge of a Pink Collar Profession” for instance, they included a table chart of compensation expenditure as a percentage of the operating budget and a table chart of gender ratio by position; an example from the gender ratio (according to the AAM 2017 National Museum Salary Survey) is the amount of museum professionals who held the position of volunteer coordinator who identify as male was 12.5 percent and those who identify as female was 86.8 percent.

In Emily Tuner’s “What’s Going on In This Picture? Museum Education as Undervalued Labor”, she included a number of cartoon panels that describe and illustrate the points she made in her chapter of the book. One of them labeled The price of entry to full-time museum education work displayed a hopeful candidate asking a museum professional about a full-time museum education position but was told despite her experience she was qualified for a part-time museum education position.

Also, I appreciate how much detail each writer put into their chapters as well as the amount of research they have included within the text and in their resource sections. In Charlotte Martin, Sarah Maldonado, and Anthea Song’s “A Case for Salary Transparency in Job Postings”, for instance, their chapter described how salary transparency in job postings is a relatively easy step towards the goal for assuring diversity and equity in museum and cultural institution employees, and they described New York City Museum Educators Roundtable’s (NYCMER) transition into changing their policy for all posting jobs on their job board to have salary transparency.

            On an additional note, I thought it was really awesome to see a tweet I had posted during the NYCMER conference in 2018 on the announcement of the policy change for their job board.

I recommend checking out this book for yourselves to learn more about what each museum professional has discussed about museum salaries and salary transparency.

If you like this book review and would like to see more of these posts on the blog, find out how you can become a supporter of the blog and website by “buying me a coffee”. Check out the link here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/lbmfmusedblog.

Link: https://museumsetc.com/

Reaction: Museums Are Being Tasked With Radically Transforming the Way They Work.

September 3, 2020

I saw this op-ed on Artnet news via Twitter written by post-graduate Interpretive Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Aaron Ambroso, titled “Museums Are Being Tasked With Radically Transforming the Way They Work. Here Are 6 Practical Steps They Can Take to Do That”. This is an interesting piece because it is important that museums should transform the way they work, and it is important to hear multiple perspectives on what is going on in the museum field. What also drew my attention to this piece was the responses to this op-ed. A number of tweets argued that the misconception that “all museums are art museums” was present within the piece. It is a misconception that is spread both within and outside of the museum field in webinars, newspaper articles, et. cetera. The problem with implying that “all museums are art museums” is not every advice, suggestion, or guideline fits with all museums, and by talking about museums in general while only highlighting the art experience it alienates other history, science, natural history, children, and many more types of museums that are working on transforming the work they do. I decided to take a closer look to see for myself what Ambroso had to say about museums transforming the way they work and where the misconception came from.

Since the op-ed was released on Artnet news, which is an extension of Artnet (the leading online resource for the international art market, and the destination to buy, sell, and research art online), it seems that the intended audience for this piece is art museums. The title of the piece and the arguments made within the piece, however, suggests that it addresses all museums. As I read the piece, I noticed that Ambroso discussed museums while heavily using examples of art museums. For instance, he stated that

Museums around the country have done pathbreaking and important work addressing issues of political neutrality, and many have made explicit discussions of race, sex, and class a central part of exhibitions and programming. Yet still too often, museums display works of art with an exclusive focus on qualities that are supposed to speak in universal ways, or with blinders about the way art objects may be read in problematic ways by disadvantaged communities.

For example, is it best to emphasize a 16th-century British portrait’s technical and formal qualities? Or should we recontextualize 16th-century symbolic objects, which were closely tied to the upper nobility, to better understand the historic inequality of the present? Too often, issues of technique and formal composition can be seen as implicitly neutral—as if they do not evince a particular perspective with an implicit value system.

The previous statements might make sense for art museums, but it may not make sense for other types of museums such as history, science, natural history, and children’s museums.

In response to the steps presented in the op-ed piece, I have mixed reactions to what was being presented in the piece. I agree that it is important for museums to connect with the community museums are located in. Ambroso pointed out the importance of connecting with the community:

Museums must go beyond the expertise of curatorial and education staff and understand themselves as interacting with specific communities across often fraught social and geographic boundaries. Many museums have come a long way in co-creating with indigenous communities. But there are also communities only miles away from museums that may feel as far away socially as people from another continent.

My concern is with the section that Ambroso labeled as “Let’s Be Neutral, Please”. While he pointed out that museums need to continue to question the history of neutrality and acknowledge the active role they play in stage-crafting the art experience, I think the title of the neutrality section was misleading since it could be easily misinterpreted as his suggestion that museums should be neutral.

Ambroso’s op-ed expressed interesting points that are important for art museums to consider when working on transforming their interactions within the community and within their walls during these hard times. If opinions are shared on what museums in general should do when reforming their practices, they should reflect on how they can be applied to all museums and not one specific type of museum. When articles are written about museums and webinars are presented for museums, it is important to develop the information that apply for all types of museums not just art museums. Every museum has not only their focused subject matter their exhibits, programs, and collections support but they have their own budget sizes, communities they serve, locations, et cetera that any specific advice or guideline does not apply to their needs.

I recommend reading the piece to see more of what they wrote on reforming museums in the link below.

Links:

https://news.artnet.com/opinion/museum-ethics-op-ed-1904895

https://news.artnet.com/

Museum Leadership: The People Matter

July 16, 2020

While museums are facing the pandemic, whether or not to re-open their physical doors, and anti-racism movements, museum leadership has been brought into question on how leadership could evolve to have a more people-centered focus. Earlier this week I came across the post on Leadership Matters called “Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People”, written by Joan Baldwin, on the state of museum leadership during this pandemic and the rise of anti-racism movements. This post made me reflect on my experiences as a leader and on my previous thoughts on museum leadership expressed in the blog.

According to the Leadership Matters post, the COVID-19 pandemic and anti-racism movements exposed a lot of inequities that exist in the United States and in the museum field recent events led many to call for a new kind of leadership that is less paternalistic and hierarchical, more collaborative. In other words, museum professionals are looking for different ways to lead in the museum that does not support inequity, low pay for front-line staff, corruption, et. cetera. Baldwin raised a number of questions in address of this call:

But what does less hierarchical really look like? What if there is no leader, just a leadership team? Sounds great, right? Everybody plays to their strengths and happily gets the work done. But what happens in a crisis when decisions must be made quickly? What if the team can’t come to consensus? Or what if other members of the staff quickly learn to play one member of the leadership team against another to ensure decisions go their way?

Leadership has a number of considerations when faced with fast decision-making opportunities especially during a pandemic we all continue to face at the time of this blog post. The system of leadership looks different for each museum, institution, and non-profit organization, and no one answer can address all concerns each one has when figuring out how to lead. To determine the answers for questions like the ones posed above, if they are looking to change their approach to leadership, each institution and non-profit should examine what their own needs are before considering any change.

In addition to considering how to answer leadership questions, museums need to be reminded of not just who they serve but who is a part of the team within the museum walls. Baldwin pointed out that to be a museum leader is to also be a people person. In other words, she stated:

It means being someone who understands it’s not about you or about the content that brought you to the field in the beginning, but instead about the team you lead, and the people and careers you nurture. The absence of leaders who actually care about staff creates institutions where bullying is rife, where hot-shot attorneys are hired to defeat unionization, where sexually harassed women are told to go work things out with their co-workers is a horrific and bothersome bi-product of this absence of leadership.

Understanding that museums are run by people who are human with limitations is a significant part of being a leader, and based on the number of cases that have been shared on how front-line staff have been treated it seems that many museums have forgotten this fact. As well as remembering my experience in the museum field, this section of the post reminded me of an early experience I had as a leader, and while it was not in the museum field this experience had taught me the importance of being a people person in the leadership role.

One of my first experiences in a leadership role was back in high school thirteen years ago as a color guard captain. The high school color guard team was a small group with more seniors than other grade levels. By the time I was a senior in high school, one of the members in the same graduating class forcibly took over the captain position; she utilized the position to not listen to any input from myself and other seniors, and other color guard members, and focused on executing her own ideas. Her actions in the leadership role, including insulting and bullying members, led to many color guard members to leave. When she left the high school, I took over the role of color guard captain and worked towards salvaging the team by listening to remaining members on not only their needs but the ideas they had on making the routines better; some of the members that originally left returned to the team. During my experience as color guard captain, I understood the importance of group input since it not only opened my mind to other possibilities for creating color guard routines and remembering their needs as individuals and students, but I also recognized them as future leaders who will be carrying the torch once I graduated. The leadership experience that I have both witnessed and practiced myself had an impact on me ever since. I sought to continue my approach to leadership as a way to not only open myself up to growth but to help foster future generations of leaders move the museum field forward.

Since then I have learned about more responsibilities and considerations leaders face in the workplace to create a strong connection within the communities they serve. In addition to having a connection with the community, leadership needs to be practiced in order to learn how to be a more effective leader. This is especially true in the museum field. In my blog post, “Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field”,

There is a difference between having the knowledge and actually practicing this knowledge. If museum professionals are under the impression that there are only certain professionals that can exhibit their leadership skills, then we would be hindering our museum professionals and future professionals’ potential. We need to show museum professionals at all levels how leadership skills benefit all of them within the organization. Our field right now is working towards improving the museum workplace throughout the field but there are still issues we need to work through to untangle this web.

When museum leaders practice their skills, they are able to develop the skills they need to connect with other people and evolve as leaders for the future of museums. If museum leaders cannot connect with their staff, volunteers, and board members, then they would be less inspired to be open with their leaders on not only ideas that may help museums move forward but also on their needs as individuals.

To learn more about the Leadership Matters post, check out the link below.  

What is your opinion on leadership? Can museums figure out a way to have effective leadership that have their staff’s best interest in mind?  

Links:

Flat Hierarchies versus the Corner Office But What Matters is People

Museum Leadership: What We Need To Do To Develop Our Skills in the Museum Field

Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums

The History of Museum Educators, Part Two: Children’s Museums

December 12, 2019

Last week I wrote about my reaction to part of this edition of the Journal of Museum Education, a publication by Museum Education Roundtable. I continued to read the Journal and after I finished reading the Journal, I thought I would give my thoughts on the rest of it. As I mentioned last week, the articles made me think about my previous experiences. This week while I read the rest of the Journal, I thought about my experiences in children’s museum. While these articles reminded me of my experiences, I always find more to learn in the Journal of Museum Education.

The most recent edition of the Journal of Museum Education, for instance, had a couple of articles focused on children’s museums. In the article “Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907-1922)”, Jessie Swigger discussed the origins of children’s museums and the contributions of museum professionals in these children’s museums. Swigger discussed the first three children’s museums in the world opened in Brooklyn, New York (1899), Boston, Massachusetts (1913), and Detroit, Michigan (1917). She examined contributions of children’s museum professionals and museum education through presentations at the American Association of Museums (now known as the American Alliance of Museums) given by the curators of the first three children’s museums: Anna Billings Gallup’s (Brooklyn), Delia I. Griffin (Boston), and Gertrude A. Gillmore (Detroit). The review of papers delivered to their colleagues demonstrated how their pioneering educational approaches, including encouraging visitors to interact with objects and creating opportunities for children to become empowered and invested museum visitors, continue to shape the field. Also, the article pointed out the value of including children’s museum professionals in conversations on museum education. Another article about children’s museums revealed another example of the value of children’s museum professionals contributions to conversations on museum education.

In the article “What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum” by Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney, they pointed out that while significant research focused on caregiver-child interaction in children’s museums little is known about what caregivers might be observing or perceiving about their children’s learning. The article discussed a study conducted by the Children’s Museums Research Network to examine what caregivers observe about their children’s learning during a visit to the children’s museum. Data were collected through online questionnaires (N=223) and follow-up phone interviews (N=20) with caregivers recruited from eight children’s museums across the U.S. Results show that caregivers could identify numerous things they discovered about their child(ren) in the museum, including their interests, social skills, thinking/problem-solving skills, and emotional regulation. What contributed most to these discoveries was opportunities to watch their children play and interact with others, and to play with unique materials and activities that they don’t have access to at home. The signage and floor staff were seen as minimally important. These findings have implications for exhibit design and staff facilitation in children’s museums.

As a museum professional who has experience working in a children’s museum, I loved learning more about the history of children’s museums and what other children’s museum professionals have discovered about children’s learning in their research. The research reinforced what I learned about how children learned and interacted with museum exhibits. I learned in my experience in a children’s museum about the constructivist method which allowed children to get involved in the process of their own learning; what I learned in my experience is that the constructivist method cannot be relied on alone to educate children, and therefore a little bit of instruction is important to give children context to what they need to learn. In a couple of blog posts I have written, I wrote about children’s museums and my experience in a children’s museum.

The post “Maker Space: Museums Can Benefit from Having a Creative Space” is where I related what I learned in the children’s science museum Maritime Explorium and how I translate my experience from historic house museums into the newer experience. Another blog post I wrote was “Is Children’s Play Declining? What are Museums Doing to Encourage Playtime” in which I wrote about my reaction to an article in the Huffington Post called “Children’s Play is Declining, But We Can Help Reclaim It.”

By reading these articles in publications such as the Journal of Museum Education, museum professionals and museum educators share their knowledge and learn from one another to help move the museum field forward.

Resources:

Jessica J. Luke, Eileen D. Tomczuk, Susan Foutz, Nicole Rivera, Lisa Brahms, Kari Nelson, Barbara Hahn, Melissa Swank & Kimberly McKenney (2019) What Caregivers Observe about Their Children’s Learning During a Visit to the Children’s Museum, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 427-438, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1672136

Jessie Swigger (2019) Museums for Somebody: Children’s Museum Professionals and the American Association of Museums (1907–1922), Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 345-353, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1663685

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/23/maker-space-museums-can-benefit-from-having-a-creative-space/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/07/20/is-childrens-play-declining-what-are-museums-doing-to-encourage-playtime/

The History of Museum Educators: Why the Role Is Important Today

December 5, 2019

I recently received my copy of the Journal of Museum Education, a publication from Museum Education Roundtable, in the mail and I began to read this edition. This last edition for the year is about the history of museum educators. Once I heard about this edition, I decided to read it and give my thoughts about the history of museum educators as well as the significance of museum educators today. I started reading a few articles, and I plan to give my thoughts on the rest of the Journal once I finished reading it. Each article provided some more insight into the field I am a part of and made me think about my previous experiences as a museum educator in relation to what is discussed in the Journal.

There are a number of compelling articles and case studies that illustrate the role of museum educators as well as current trends that are influenced by the museum education community. The first article I read was “Where Does the History of Museum Education Begin?” written by the assistant editor Nathaniel Prottas. Since the beginning of my career as a museum educator, I have been curious about how museum education began and learned the complexity of museum education. After I read Prottas’ article, I realized that the origins of museum education are just as complex as museum education is today. He pointed out that Given the variety of museums that exist today, from science centers, to historic homes, to literary museums, a unified history of the field could never do our past justice. With multiple types of museums not just in North America but in Europe, Africa, and South America, we would not be able to pinpoint the exact origins of museum education. All museums have at least one thing in common: their missions are driven by education. When I continued to read the rest of the Journal, I began to learn even more about museum education background that fascinated me.

Another article I read, for instance, was “The Influence of Progressivism and the Works Progress Administration on Museum Education” written by Carissa DiCindio and Callan Steinmann. In this article, DiCindio and Steinmann described the Federal Arts Project (WPA-FAP) (1935-1943) of the Works Progress Administration which was a federally funded program designed through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to keep visual artists at work during the Great Depression. Many art programs took place through museums and exhibitions that were brought to Americans with both public programs and outreach. Their article pointed out that there is a continued legacy of community-driven, education-centered approaches in museums today such as outreach initiatives, studio programs, and responsive community programs that seek to bring visual arts experiences to the public. It is a perfect example of how previous museum programs and policies influence current practices in museum education, and why it is important to learn from these experiences to then move forward in fulfilling educational missions in museums.

The next article that captured my attention was “Gallery Games and Mash-ups: The Lessons of History for Activity-based Teaching” written by Elliot Kai-Kee. Kai-Kee took a closer look at the late 1960s and early 1970s and found dissatisfaction with standard approaches that resulted in numerous experimental programs using approaches emphasizing movements, the senses, and feeling. He described the programs, such as Arts Awareness at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Susan Sollins’ gallery games at the National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington, DC, that left a legacy of experiential, activity-based teaching. His argument for current experimental programs for museum mashups and gallery games is to build solid programs and pedagogy on the foundation of improvisation and experimentation museum educators still need a theory of activities in the museum. I think we can always learn from previous examples when developing our own activity-based lessons. Previous lesson plans help museum educators see what has been done to educate intended audiences, and by inferring what worked and did not work we are able to improve the quality of our programs and expand our program offerings. It is important to keep up to date with education theories being utilized to maintain relevance in the school communities.

I especially thought a lot about my previous experiences when I read the article “Museums and School Group Chaperones: A New Future for an Old Role” by David B. Allison. Allison pointed out that chaperones play a key role in the experience students have in museums, and in most museums the parents and caregivers are underutilized and underappreciated. His article proposed a new approach to how chaperones might be catalysts for learning during museum visits. As a result, with the framing of a two-year grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services that resulted in a partnership with two school districts and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Museum learned that chaperones are essential to ensuring inquiry-driven education guides field trips. I appreciated Allison’s article and his emphasis on the importance of chaperones. As a museum educator, I have dealt with chaperones with varying participation in the programs. I shared my experiences in a previous blog post about chaperones and how we should include their involvement in program.

My experiences, outlined in the post “Museum Education Programs: The Challenges of Having Chaperones Be Effective Participants”, showed me that each chaperone had different expectations about what the chaperones’ roles should be. Some were involved with engaging the students by assisting and working with them, and other chaperones were standing to the side paying attention to their phones and not engaging with what is happening within the program. The article Allison wrote for the Journal proves that we are still working on figuring out how to engage chaperones with the programs.

As I continue to read this edition of this Journal, I hope to continue to takeaway more knowledge to adapt for my own practices in my career.

Resources:

Nathaniel Prottas (2019) Where Does the History of Museum Education Begin?, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 337-341, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1677020

Carissa DiCindio & Callan Steinmann (2019) The Influence of Progressivism and the Works Progress Administration on Museum Education, Journal of Museum Education, 44:4, 354-367, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1665399

http://www.museumedu.org/jme/jme-44-4-the-past-in-the-present-the-relevancy-of-the-history-of-museum-education-today/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/16/museum-education-programs-the-challenges-of-having-chaperones-be-effective-participants/

Moving Towards an Equitable Museum Workforce: Reaction to Salary Doc

June 6, 2019

Last week a Google Sheet was released listing salary information museum professionals have volunteered to share with the online museum community. Since workplace equity is an important topic that is discussed and implemented in the museum field, the latest news shows the museum field is serious about improving the quality of museum professionals’ work conditions. It is wonderful to learn more about what colleagues’ salary information is like in both the United States and in countries outside of the North American continent especially since we can get an idea of what salary is like in the countries before considering taking a museum position. I decided to take a closer look at the Google Sheet for both my curiosity and for this week’s blog post to share my thoughts about the document.

In the document, there are six separate spreadsheets filled with volunteered information about salary and other resources. The first tab listed the name of museum/art organization/institution, region, museum type, or number of employees at organization, role, department, city, country, starting salary, year of starting salary, current (2019) or ending salary, hourly (H) / permanent (P) / contingent/finite term employment (C), if part-time / hourly (H) / contingent/finite term employment (C), how many hours/week, benefits?, year this salary was current (if a current salary, put 2019), years of experience in field at time of current salary listed, parental leave policy at organization (and who is eligible), and an optional section for race, gender, and preferred pronouns.

Each type of museum, gallery, and organization was listed in alphabetical order. The majority of the contributions came from across the United States but there were a number of contributions that are outside of the country. For instance, there are entries from France, Switzerland, Hong Kong, India, Sweden, Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Italy, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, Russia, Hungary, Argentina, and South Africa. At the time of this blog post, there are 801 entries in the first tab of the Google Sheet and more entries in the other tabs. The second tab is information from Form 990 and there are links to 990s from twenty-four museums. According to the second tab, the 990s of institutional salaries is available publicly online and museum professionals are invited to find our institution, copy and paste the link, and add to the sheet.

 The third tab has a list of resources about salaries and salary studies. For instance, it listed articles, salary studies from museum associations, and a podcast. A few of the resources include the GEMM (Gender Equity in Museums) Salary Transparency Statement, a State-by-state US guide to pregnant and parenting workers’ rights (A Better Balance), Fair Museum Jobs, and a Podcast: Museopunks, Episode 35: Salary Transparency in Art Museums. Meanwhile the fourth tab has a data copy of information for sorting and the fifth tab is a copy of salaries experiential formatting. The copy of salaries experiential formatting is sorted by departments in alphabetical order then listed other information including the organizations, role, starting salary, current salary, contingent, and time period.  Then finally the last tab is a pivot by role and salary which seems to list hourly rates and general type of organizations the rates are associated with. After reading through the Google Sheet document, I am overwhelmed with so much information and very pleased with how much has been contributed to this document.

I appreciate the effort all contributors had in developing the sheet and volunteering specific information to share with the online community. Not many museum professionals are able to have access to the salary reports that are usually posted by museum associations such as the American Alliance of Museums since they are usually too expensive to purchase. By being able to learn from our colleagues, the museum field can move closer to a more equitable workforce. I feel that this document makes salary information more accessible for museum professionals. It is also great to see all of the relevant resources in one document, and we should continue to add any information that is useful for museum professionals especially for those looking for jobs in the museum field. I feel that it would be useful for me because I am curious about museum salaries in my area so I know what I am getting into when looking at museums. Museum professionals, both job seekers and current museum professionals, can benefit from this document because it gives information to help them with salary and benefits negotiations as well as having a better understanding of the salary and benefits.

If you have read the document, what are your reactions to this sheet?

Resources:

https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/museum-educator-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm

Institutional Salaries 990: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits

GEMM (Gender Equity in Museums) Salary Transparency Statement: https://www.genderequitymuseums.com/single-post/SalaryMatters

State-by-state US guide to pregnant and parenting workers’ rights (A Better Balance): https://babygate.abetterbalance.org

Fair Museum Jobs: https://fairmuseumjobs.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/the-journey-begins/

Podcast: Museopunks, Episode 35: Salary Transparency in Art Museums: https://www.aam-us.org/2019/05/22/museopunks-episode-35/

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14_cn3afoas7NhKvHWaFKqQGkaZS5rvL6DFxzGqXQa6o/htmlview?usp=sharing&sle=true

https://www.artsy.net/news/artsy-editorial-online-spreadsheet-revealed-museum-workers-salaries

www.artnews.com/2019/05/31/google-spreadsheet-museum-workers-disclose-salaries/

https://news.artnet.com/market/museum-employees-salary-google-doc-1561372

The Challenges Faced in Small Museums

May 9, 2019

As I was looking through resources on the museum and public history field, I noticed that there were articles that explain why small museum professionals get the credit they deserve but there were not many articles that discuss the physical challenges working in small museums present. I decided that this week’s post I will introduce the physical work small museum professionals have done to help make the museum and historic sites. In previous blog posts, I have shared my memories of working in small museums and historic house museums that I also recommend reading to comprehend what the physical work is like at small museums. With this perspective, I understand the challenges faced by small museum professionals.

At the historic house museums, I have not only worked in education programs but I was also involved in the interpretation and preservation of the collections and maintain some of the upkeep of the historic houses. For instance, at the Connecticut Landmarks’ Hartford properties I was responsible for dusting and cleaning items, tables, et. cetera. Then I took an inventory of the collection and filled out collections conditions paperwork. These tasks I worked on took a lot of time and physical demand to accomplish so the historic houses were well-maintained to make sure we still preserved for future generations.  Also, I was a part of the team that worked on revamping the tours by picking a theme of the house and researching the theme for a more engaging visitor experience using the collections in the house. At other small museums, I took on other projects such as grant applications, social media posts and analytics, responding to donation request letters, invoice for summer program, and purchase supplies for education and museum supplies. Each responsibility I had took a lot of time to dedicate to, and may not be accomplished in one day because of other responsibilities that would need to take priority depending on what is going on at the moment.

Small museum professionals deserve a lot of credit for all of the work that they put in to keep the museums running for the visitors and the rest of their communities. In a blog post “The Value of Small Museums” by Aimee E. Newell, the Executive Director of the Luzerne County Historical Society, she talked about her experiences in working small museums and what she valued in her experiences working in small museum based around a question that was posed to her one day: “Why don’t you have a better job?” My blog post in which I reacted to Newell’s post delved into my own experiences that answered that question:

The problem with defining museum jobs as “better” than others is it devalues the hard work museum professionals contribute to the small museums. All museum professionals have so many challenges and other things to accomplish that we are reminding ourselves to not take self-care for granted. As a museum professional who works in a small museum, I argue that museum professionals in smaller museums have even more responsibilities since we are required to wear multiple hats to accomplish varying projects on a regular basis.

Working in small museums do help museum professionals like myself to be able to learn quickly skills they need to complete projects that will ultimately fulfill the overall mission of the museum. In my experience, I have balanced administrative, financial, and educational projects by prioritizing the ones that are most dire at the moment. A lot of times priorities have to change in order to meet the demand of what is happening in the current situation. The importance of these experiences is knowing that while these museums are smaller they are making a difference.

While previous articles have discussed how they had to wear multiple hats to accomplish what bigger museums do with a larger staff, we should address more the consequences of this work ethic. It could be impressive at first how the small museum professionals get so much accomplished in multiple roles, we cannot forget that like all museum professionals small museum workers need to take time to practice self-care and have equitable workplace to help combat burnouts. If we encourage museum staff in small and large museums to wear multiple hats and expect them to put one hundred percent into all of those hats while being underpaid and a lot of times underappreciated, then we end up losing dedicated museum professionals. The question I pose for everyone who reads this post and I really want everyone to consider the answer: when we wear multiple hats, do we really accomplish every task effectively and completely?

Resources:

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/08/16/reaction-the-value-of-small-museums/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/02/07/museum-memories-connecticuts-old-state-house/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/02/21/museum-memories-stanley-whitman-house/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2019/04/25/museum-memories-connecticut-landmarks-historic-houses-in-hartford/

https://aaslh.org/the-value-of-small-museum-experience-or-why-i-dont-have-a-better-job/

https://museumhack.com/mighty-small-museums/

Reaction: Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums

Added to Medium, December 6, 2018

Many museum professionals, as well as non-profit professionals, are familiar with Giving Tuesday. This takes place annually the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to ask shoppers to consider donating money to non-profit organizations, and museums also participate in asking visitors to donate to help support museums. It is ironic that while museums participate in Giving Tuesday to convince people to give charity to these museums, museum executives and boards are not using the same mentality of charity to its hard-working staff. While I was celebrating Thanksgiving and working at the Long Island Explorium, I came across the blogpost “Giving Tuesday & Low Salaries in Museums” by Seema Rao, and I started to think about the current state of museum professionals’ salaries and working conditions. Articles and blog posts like this one prove that while we are bringing more awareness to the situation we have so far to go to make the changes we need to make for our museums. Another thing that these articles,blog posts, seminars, etc. about salaries and the museum workforce have in common is the salary is the most talked about topic in our field right now.

Our field needs to be doing more to make changes in how we pay our staff and the working conditions in the museum. As Rao pointed out, staff are aware of how low their salaries are:

Junior staff members see their peers making vastly more in other sectors. Colleagues are learning that peers in other parts of their organizations are making more for the same job, and they are unhappy. Mid-career professionals are looking around for other jobs that pay better.

Museum educators are definitely not happy with the current state of salaries in the field. It was one of the topics discussed in NYCMER’sprogram last year “Career Growth in Museum Education” in which we not only focused on  how to build and sustain careers in museum education but we talked about the survey results from the “Why are Great Museum Workers Leaving the Field?” survey conducted in September 2016. According to the results of the survey, which were also shared in the “Leaving the Museum Field” article on AAM’s website, the pay was too low was the number one reason respondents who answered why they left the field. 

I also wrote a reaction piece to the AAM article last year highlighting my thoughts about the conditions of the museum field. In that post, I said that 

I still believe museums can illuminate an individual’s educational experience, and by continuing in the museum field I hope to make an impact on the public. It is a challenge to accomplish this when there are things that prevent me from fulfilling this goal.

This statement is just as true now as it was then. Unfortunately, for many museum professionals including myself, the challenges preventing us from fulfilling our goals in our careers is continuing to present problems that make us want action to be taken to correct our field sooner. And we should be not only having more open discussions about salaries with one another and with our executives we need to see results to keep our passions for our work alive. 

We cannot make effective change without bringing awareness of this issue to the executives and museum boards who make the big decisions to run the museum. Rao has pointed out that

Museums replicate some elements of corporate America, giving their CEO’s higher salaries. But, they have chosen to ignore others. Lower level staff generally doesn’t have any perks that keep them there. Flex time, infinite vacation, and profit-sharing don’t generally exist in museums. Instead, museum staff members remain in place due to their drives and hopes. There is the dream that their penury will have a long-term payoff when they get to the top, or their martyrdom is worth being part of this amazing mission. For others, there is no job mobility. The majority of cities in America don’t have enough museums for professionals to move from museum job to museum job without moving. In other words, museum executives get the benefit of corporate salaries while leading a group of people who might feel trapped by their ideals.

By changing the way museums are run to make them resemble corporations, the staff are the ones that pay the price of greater hardship within their personal and professional lives. While we may be holding on to our passions for museums and to our hopes of having a long-term payoff for the hard work we put in, we cannot hold on forever. Eventually, if we have not done so already, will burn out and be trapped in a never-ending loop of the hardship while the higher ups will reap the rewards they see in their paths.

A question was posed in the blog post that resonatedwith me: If we can’t even preserve our staff at a living wage, why should people trust us with their collections or money?

Since the purpose of many museums is to preserve its collections, we will not be able to do the work that we do if museums continue down this path of paying its staff low wages. What museum executives and boards seem to not realize, as Rao has beautifully stressed in her post, is the staff engage with the visitors on a regular basis and the visitors’ impressions of the museum also depend on how the staff treats them. Staff members may be able to conceal their unhappiness with their work conditions and low salaries, but there may be days that they are  unable to conceal it as well and this could easily effect how they interact with the visitors. 

If the executives and boards are not willing to properly compensate their staff with living wages and create a safe work environment, then how can they convince visitors to come into our doors?

For those who do not workin the museum field, please keep in mind what museum workers are going throughand be supportive to them. To learn more, please read the following sources:

https://www.medium.com/@artlust/giving-tuesday-low-salaries-in-museums-b4080566c81b

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/09/27/leaving-the-museum-field-a-reaction-to-the-alliance-labs-blog/

https://www.aam-us.org/2017/09/22/leaving-the-museum-field/

What Grants Mean for Museums

Added to Medium, July 26, 2018

Museum professionals understand that grants are significant for funding museums to keep them exercising their practices such as running programs and caring for collections. Based on my experiences, grants are a tedious necessity since there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out to fund museums, and the information we need to fill out for grants is repetitive depending on how many times we need to apply to the same grant.

One of my responsibilities at the Long Island Explorium includes writing grant applications and proposals. I have worked with state grants and kit applications to keep the museum fulfilling its mission. With the Executive Director, I filled out paperwork to send to the state representative and the county legislator. Also, I filled out online applications for program kits such as the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit to be able to use at the museum. In the Earth Science Earth & Space Toolkit application, I would first write in the museum’s demographics as well as a brief explanation of how the museum will use the toolkit in a downloaded form then copy the information into the online application after making adjustments to reflect the current year.

While my main interest in the museum field is education, I see value in learning about grant application processes since we need a fund source that is at least somewhat consistent to keep museum education programs running. The problems we all come across in the field is limited availability of grants and being able to convince foundations, government agencies, and other funders of why we need these funds. It is a challenge to find funding for our museums but it is worth the time and effort to search and apply for these grants.

Foundations, organizations, government agencies, and other funding sources have websites that share resources on what grants are out there and how to apply for them. I came across a blog post on the American Alliance of Museum’s website written by Charlotte A. Montgomery who shared some of the websites about grants to help museum professionals get started on the grant search process. One of the websites in the post was for the Foundation Center (http://foundationcenter.org/) which connects people to the resources they need by using data, analysis, and training. Another grant website discussed in the blog post was Grants.gov which is a place to find and apply for federal grants, and it is highly advisable to make sure the organization is registered with the System for Award Management weeks before planning to submit a proposal. Once museum professionals find the grant or grants they want to apply for, they need to figure out what the grant process is like to accurately submit a proposal.

Sarah Sutton’s second edition of Is Your Museum Grant-Ready? revealed one of the first things to do before even thinking about applying for grants is to understand the grant funding system. According to Sutton, she pointed out that

If you need funds for programs or capital projects, then the best way to support the grants process is to understand it well enough to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material and assistance.

When museum professionals are able to ask the right questions and provide the right kind of material as well as assistance, the whole grant process will be easier to understand for future grant applications. Also, museums would save a lot of time when figuring out how to apply for the grant. Without knowing how the process is performed, a lot of time is wasted as we continue to correct the errors are made.

I learned that it is important to go over each detail carefully while I was filling out grant paperwork for the Long Island Explorium. Since I have to make a number of copies to send to the state representative and county legislator, it was easy for me to make and discover errors. The good news was I was able to catch them before I sent the paperwork in the mail. If any errors were made in the process, we would not be able to know until a few months after submitting the paperwork; it would take a few months for them to go through the grant paperwork. Understanding the process is beneficial for myself as well as all museum professionals working on grant proposals. Since there are so many museums that apply to grants, each museum need to figure out how they can stand out from other applications.

As I was reviewing information about grants, I came across two blog posts on answers to grant proposals if non-profits were brutally honest. The writer pointed out that non-profits are trained to tell funders what we think they want to hear, and had collected various honest answers to questions posed by grant applications. If non-profits are able to be brutally honest, some of the answers are

  1. What is innovative about your program design? “Our program is entirely innovative. The design is unproven; the approach is untested; the outcomes are unknown. We also have a tried-and-true service delivery model with outstanding results and a solid evidence base to support it. But you funded that last year and your priority is to fund innovative projects. So we made this one up. Please send money.”
  2. How will you use the funds if you receive this grant? We honestly really need this grant to pay for rent and utilities and for wages so our staff can do important work and feed their families, but since you won’t allow your funds to be used for those things, we will say that your grant is paying for whatever you will actually fund, then get other funders or donors to give and then tell them that their money is paying for the stuff that they want to fund. We will ultimately waste hundreds of hours every year trying to figure out who is paying for what, hours that could be used to deliver services. Please send unrestricted money.
  3. What is the mission of your organization? Susan, can we talk? This is a renewal grant. It’s the third year you have supported us. You know what our mission is, along with our programs, outcomes, challenges, etc., because we’ve been in constant communication. Instead of writing an entire proposal again as if you’ve never heard of us, how about I just tell you what’s new since last year? That will save us both a lot of time. What’s new is that Jason got a standing desk that he made out of cardboard boxes and Gorilla tape because you and other funders want overhead to be low. He says hi. Also, demands for our services has doubled. Please send double the amount of money you normally send.
  4. What needs are you addressing? We are addressing the failure of our government and capitalism to provide for people who are suffering from systemic injustice caused by government and capitalism. Please send money or convince corporations and the rest of society to pay more taxes and take care of people better and put us nonprofit professionals out of business so that some of us can pursue our dreams of acting and/or wedding photography.

I believe a lot of museum professionals from time to time have identified with these honest responses. Museum professionals are constantly attempting to brainstorm innovative ideas for programs to draw visitors in and show foundations providing grants we have something unique worth putting money towards.

Also, we do need to consider paying for rent, utilities, and salaries when trying to fund our museums but the problem can be summed up with this question: is there a grant that will pay for us to be in our building and do the work we do to support ourselves? An honest response previously listed suggests there isn’t. One of the issues we are talking about in this field is the lack of providing living wages for our staff and how we should be working towards better pay. As we work towards addressing and resolving what we need to fix, we should acknowledge how we need to receive more support from the government to help us fix the problems we are facing in the museum field. We are constantly working towards making sure the government provides funding for our organizations through our advocacy efforts, and since we continue to struggle to make sure they run smoothly with sufficient funds we need to continue to advocate for our museums.

We acknowledge the need for grants in our organizations, and without grants we would have a hard time keeping our museums running.

Have you worked on a grant or grants for your organization? What are your experiences with grants?

Resources:
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/02/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-with-funders/
http://nonprofitaf.com/2018/07/answers-on-grant-proposals-if-nonprofits-were-brutally-honest-part-2/
https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442273108/Is-Your-Museum-Grant-Ready-Second-Edition
http://ww2.aam-us.org/about-us/grants-awards-and-competitions/grants-calendar
https://www.comnetwork.org/insights/
http://www.raise-funds.com/positioning-grant-writers-for-success/
https://www.aam-us.org/2015/02/02/your-museum-needs-money-now-what/
http://www.smallmuseum.org/smaresources
https://www.childrensmuseums.org/members/resources/grants-and-award-calendar

Mentorships: Why It Is Significant for Museum Educators

Added to Medium, June 28, 2018

Our most important resources in the museum and museum education field come from each other. Mentorships are one of the ways all professionals, especially museum professionals, can learn from one another. As we discuss taking care of ourselves, it is important to learn the value of the relationship between mentors and mentees.

There are many definitions of mentorships since there are many types of mentorships. A mentorship could be described as a process for informal spread of knowledge, social capital, or psychosocial support the recipient believes to be relevant to work, career, or professional development. Professionals especially in the museum and non-profit field can benefit from participating in a mentorship program whether one seeks a mentor or a mentee. In the article “Finding a Guide: The Value of Having a Professional Mentor” written for the Common Good Careers organizations, it stated that

Mentors provide developing nonprofit leaders with the support they might not have access to otherwise. For example, access to the mentor’s personal network can give emerging leaders a chance to meet important people at a crucial time in their careers and can broaden their range of possible professional opportunities.

Mentors have the opportunity to help mold new museum professionals to help develop the future of museums, while mentees have the opportunity to not only learn more about the field but can make connections to help them move forward in their careers. The same article from the Common Good Careers also shared a very good point mentees should keep in mind when communicating with their mentors:

As the relationship develops, mentees should remember to share their successes with their mentors and make sure the mentor knows how valuable their time and insight is. Remember that mentoring is about sharing knowledge and expertise in a way that benefits both of the participants and thereby helps to build and strengthen the nonprofit sector as a whole. As nonprofit professionals develop their leadership skills, it will be important to incorporate best practices into every mentoring relationship.

I believe it is important for both mentors and mentees to continue the mentoring relationship to share successes and to show appreciation for one another. Testimonials from mentees are especially helpful for mentors in the museum field to help improve museum practices and to learn how mentees can benefit from the mentor-mentee relationship. I came across a blog post “Mentorship at the Museum | Origins of the Mentorship” from a mentee, Kevin Mooz, participating in a mentorship program at the American Civil War Museum in Virginia.

Mooz’s blog post discussed his fascination with battlefield history and how museums are run which started at a young age through his own visits to museums and stories from his grandfather who was a museum curator. He explained that his experience as a mentee working at the American Civil War Museum allowed him to express both of these passions, and to learn more about how museums are run. When we learn from our mentees, mentors have the opportunity to learn what their mentees’ passions are then use this information to find the best fit for them to succeed within the field. Both mentors and mentees go through a learning process that will hopefully continue to develop their careers as well as their respective fields.

Some mentees utilize their relationships with their mentors by looking up to them as role models. In the Leadership Matters blog post “Role Models: Why We Need Them and What They Tell Us About Us”, they pointed out that

Role models can be positive or negative. They all teach us, good or bad, and the positive ones inspire us. They’re mirrors by which we can examine our own strengths and weaknesses, measure our abilities and desires, and clarify our choices. Role models can change our outlook and encourage us to reach our own potential.

By seeing mentors as role models, mentees have long lasting inspiration to continue to develop and improve Museum professionals can benefit from participating in a membership program, whether it is within the departments or museum associations.

A number of museum organizations offer mentorship programs to help museum professionals. The American Alliance of Museums Education Committee, for instance, developed a seven-month mentorship program with the mentors and mentees deciding on what to discuss and how often they will meet (in-person or online). Mentors and mentees are matched depending on the program applicants’ backgrounds in the museum education field, and participants are encouraged to report to a supervisor on how the mentorship is working and to help make adjustments as needed. There is also an orientation webinar to introduce mentors and mentees to the program and learn more about the advice they can give to conduct a successful mentorship. As a mentor in the program, I so far enjoy this program because my mentee and myself would not only have the opportunity to meet and get to know one another, but we are able to share experiences and learn from one another. This program also encourages mentors and mentees to continue to keep in touch after the program ends. There are other mentorship programs that help other museum professionals in the field.

The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) also has a mentorship program to assist museum curators in moving the field forward. In the program, approximately five to eight sets of established, senior curators (mentors) and emerging to mid-career curators (mentees) embark on the 12-month program each year. Museums Association created a pilot project called Mentoring for All which looks to develop a new model for mentoring for the sector across England and Scotland. I included links to the previously mentioned mentorship programs and other mentorship programs I came across in the resources section below.

I also included other resources on the benefits of establishing a mentorship program within an organization. When given the right tools and the opportunity, mentors and mentees can learn from one another about our field and help develop and preserve the future of museums.

Have you participated in a mentorship program? What was your experience like? How has your mentorship program helped you in your career?

Resources:
https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/role-models-why-we-need-them-and-what-they-tell-us-about-us/
http://commongoodcareers.org/index.php?/articles/detail/finding-a-guide-the-value-of-having-a-professional-mentor/
https://www.artcurators.org/page/Mentorship?
https://www.museumsassociation.org/professional-development/mentoring-for-all
https://museums.ca/site/projects_rbc
https://acwm.org/blog/mentorship-museum-origins-mentorship
https://nemanet.org/conference-events/lunch-nema/multigenerational-mentorship/
https://www.kent.edu/yourtrainingpartner/value-establishing-mentoring-program-within-your-organization