International Museum Workers Day 2019 and #MuseumEdChat

October 24, 2019

October 24th is International Museum Workers Day. According to the official website, IMWD began as an educational project to introduce the general public to the myriad professions relating to the creation, research, discovery and presentation of heritage. The people behind International Museum Workers Day value the importance of soft power heritage diplomacy to help with exchange of views & ideas, promote knowledge of other cultures, and build bridges between nations. This year IMWD is supporting sustainable heritage by committing to stimulate communities to urgently embrace the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. The Agenda, developed by the United Nations, is a commitment to eliminate poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030 world-wide. To learn more about the Agenda, take a look at the European Commission page on the Agenda and sustainable development here.

In honor of International Museum Workers Day, I participated in the #MuseumEdChat on Twitter that focuses on stress and how museum professionals deal with stress. We all need to remember how to take time for ourselves for our emotional, mental, and physical health. The first question we addressed in the discussion was:

Q1: What in your work tends to ignite stress? #MuseumEdChat

A lot of the discussion focused on boundaries not being set, working significantly beyond the job description, low wages, and lack of understanding from leadership about emotional labor as well as physical and mental work put into our work as the main triggers of our stress in the museum field. In my opinion it seems that the further removed from the emotional, physical, and mental work the more leadership is unaware of what museum staff can realistically accomplish.

Museum professionals who participated in the discussion seem to agree that it is a challenge to have a work-life balance because we are stretched beyond our capabilities to meet expectations of leadership and the nature of our work. Some museum professionals, in my experience from talking with colleagues and participating in professional development programs, feel that they need to stretch themselves out to make ends meet on unlivable wages. If we continue this path, we will continue to have both an increase in burn out and individuals leaving the museum field. The second question we addressed in tonight’s discussion was:

Q2: What methods or strategies do you use to manage your stress? #MuseumEdChat.

My response to this question was:

There are varying strategies museum professionals can do to manage stress. For instance, some watch favorite television shows and knitting. The third question we addressed in our discussion was:

Q3: In what ways can managers/supervisors help staff manage their stress? In other words, what support do you need?  #MuseumEdChat

My response to this question was:

In other words, staff and managers should set aside time away from the museum to attend painting classes, go for a hike, etc. which would help both parties set up work/life balances. It is important that leadership should set an example for a healthy work/life balance. Also, an open communication between leadership and staff is a must to improve the quality of the museum work we do.

All museum professionals would benefit greatly from equitable pay, benefits, feasible expectations, and a healthy work/life balance. We need to continue to advocate for these things for museum workers. When we think about our museums contributions to the communities surrounding them, and sustainability for around the world, we should not forget about improving the quality of the museum workers’ working conditions. Our recognition of museum workers should be acknowledged on more than one day, as the people of IMWD strive towards with International Museum Workers Day.

Resources and Relevant Posts:

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.


Recap: The 100th Annual New England Museum Association Conference

It has been a long time since I talked about my experience and experienced the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference. After a few years of not being able to attend the conference, I chose to attend the 100th annual NEMA conference. As always, I had a positive learning experience as well as reunited with a number of colleagues I have met at previous conferences and met with new conference participants. It was located at the Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Stamford, Connecticut, and the theme of the conference was Museums on the Move which explored how museums have evolved since the very first NEMA conference and how they are positioning themselves for success in the century ahead.

A few days before the conference began, NEMA conference attendants were made aware of the labor situation at the Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in which hotel workers were protesting unfair wages. While NEMA considered moving the conference to another location, NEMA decided that it was not practical considering the size of the NEMA conference and the relatively short time frame before the conference; the full NEMA statement can be found here: There have been some participants that decided to not attend the conference or decided to not hold sessions in the hotel as a result, and as a museum community we supported their decisions. During the keynote session, NEMA Executive Director Dan Yaeger dedicated time to talk about the labor situation at the hotel and a couple of staff members from the hotel spoke to us about what the work conditions were like at the hotel. Throughout our conference experience, discussions about the labor situation emphasized the importance of recognizing one another as hard workers who should and deserve to do and see changes made in our fields.

Also during the NEMA session, we heard more about the 100-yearhistory of NEMA and the NEMA conference. They introduced a pop-up exhibit which displayed a timeline of NEMA’s history and allowed conference participants to add their own museum’s history to the timeline using Post-Its, markers, and dry erase boards. What was also added to the exhibit was the wishes for NEMA and the museum field inside boxes that were lifted by the NEMA staff and keynote session presenters in front of the whole conference.

@Steward2Lindsey: Whoa! #nema2018

Each of the sessions I selected to attend during the week were both for my personal interest and also to gather information for the Long Island Explorium and the Three Village Historical Society. On the first day, I attended a session called The STEAM Dream Team in which I learned how collaboration between institutions can create meaningful STEAM programming from educators at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Connecticut Science Center; they discussed how an initial joint-school program evolved, and continues to evolve, into a multivalent partnership that benefits both institutions. Also, the session included a hands-on STEAM activity using shadows, light and colors. and practical tips for starting our own art/science collaboration. Then I attended a session called Continuing Education for Your Most Committed(and Creative) Life-Long Learners which considers experiences of long-serving volunteer educators from the standpoint of their interest in and capacity for new learning, in subject matter and pedagogical techniques; I learned about different tailored programs that can refresh docents’ intellectual lives, keeping them up to date and incorporate reflective, cyclical self-assessment and these developmental strategies can be applied to all subject areas. The last session I attended for the day was Power Dynamics and Workplace Culture: A Think Tank in which I participated in a discussion about how to help colleagues examine power dynamics and workplace culture in museums by sharing solutions and ideas for moving the field towards a more equitable and transparent future.

In the evening I attended the Opening ceremony at the Bruce Museum of Art and Science in Greenwich which was originally built in 1853 as a private home on a hill overlooking Greenwich Harbor, and the museum has emerged as one of the area’s premier institutions highlighting art, science, and natural history. I strolled through the permanent collection galleries featuring art from legendary Cos Cob Impressionists (including Childe Hassam, Emil Carlsen, Leonard and Mina Fonda Ochtman, and Elmer McRae among others), a spectacular mineral and natural history collection, and American material culture spanning the Colonial period to the present day. Also, I went into the giftshop to purchase a few items, enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, and since I attended the ceremony I received a free book about the Bruce Museum’s collections.

The next day, I attendedthe session Beyond the School Visit:Museum and District Collaboration in which representatives from The AldrichMuseum and the Ridgefield Public Schools discussed their collaboration and howthey evolved school visits into “deep dive” programming resulting in district-wide, cross-disciplinary curriculum, learning opportunities for educators, school memberships, and experiences for students that align with their respective missions. We listened to museum management, district administrators, and a parent on how the collaboration evolved and how it impacts their institutions; afterwards we were engaged in an activity that was designed to inspired partnerships rooted in reciprocity, shared values, and innovation. The next session I went to was a session called How Visitor-Centered Are We? which was a follow up to the last year’s seminar discussion about truth in museums, and the discussion continued with examining the continuing shift to create more visitor-centered environments and what this means in the context of today’s society. This session also came with selected pre-readings in which we used to examine and share ideas and examples of inclusion, diversity and access, both physical and cultural, to help us understand how they shape, or should shape, our work today. The last session of the day I attended was called Finding Your Voice on Social Media which provided an overview of how Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can become powerful tools for our organizations and connect with a greater audience.

Since this was the lastday of the conference, I attended two sessions before the conference luncheonand annual meeting. The first session was called Re-Imagining the Future! Museums for Tomorrow in which I learned howthree institutions of art, culture, and science are transforming their facilities and programming for the 21st century and beyond. This had a panel discussion that explored three significant capital projects at the Barnum Museum, Bruce Museum, and Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, and they addressed mater planning and design, construction and interpretive planning. The last session was called Integrating Skill Building into Museum Programs for Children and Caregivers which had hands-on science activities introduced by science center and children’s museum staff that can be facilitated in a variety of museum settings; these activities can be used to look beyond the product or content goals and think about how children can practice important developmental and science process skills as they participate, and the presenters shared strategies for engaging caregivers in the process of their children’s learning and helping them recognize the skill development that is taking place.

At the conferenceluncheon and annual meeting we continued the celebration of NEMA’s 100thanniversary by recognizing winners of the 2018 NEMA Excellence Awards and commemorate the career of Larry Yerdon, NEMA’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Awardee. Yerdon, President & CEO of Strawberry Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH, has had a distinguished career in museums, an active supporter of NEMA its President, and has mentored countless museum professionals as they built their own careers in the field. During the lunch, conference participants heard about NEMA’s latest initiatives, then we helped elect the next NEMA board and officers during a brief annual meeting before heading home from the conference.

The conference experience is just as I remembered in terms of socializingwith former colleagues and new acquaintances. It meant a lot to me to be ableto participate in the 100th conference, and the additional momentsthat highlighted its 100 year history stood out to me; reading the timeline made me realize how much I did not know about NEMA and I am happy to have learned about this rich history. Meanwhile, the sessions themselves have not only been informative but presented fascinating information that I am happy to share with colleagues in New York (including colleagues at the Long Island Explorium and the Three Village Historical Society) and everyone in the museum online community reading this blog post.

If you would like to learn more about each session Idescribed above or have any questions, please contact me on social media or here: