As a disclaimer, I love visiting museums all year long, and the palpable love and support at the Capital Pride parade make me suspect that it is the DC area’s most favorite celebration of the year. That said, advocacy work requires turning a reflective eye inward. Among the fascinating chats, articles, and blog posts I’ve read on these subjects, I had trouble narrowing down this list to just seven examples.
- I recently read all the #MuseumWorkersSpeak chats listed at this Storify link. #MuseumWorkersSpeak really took off as a hashtag and a movement in 2015, a couple of years after I’d stopped being a museum worker. Though I was briefly involved in the local in-real-life group, it never seemed quite right to attend #MuseumWorkersSpeak meetings when I could no longer speak as a museum worker. Yet, in reading the chats, I saw so much that resonated, such as institutions with lofty missions and visions but less-than-lofty internal practices.
- Another chat not listed at the above link looks at celebrations of the 2015 Supreme Court decision on marriage equality through the lens of #MuseumWorkersSpeak. Among topics raised: even if a museum is welcoming and celebratory on social media, that doesn’t necessarily translate to being an inclusive workplace in terms of policies or atmosphere.
- I have read this 2014 article from Jacobin on the insidious side of the “Do What You Love” (DWYL) mantra a few times, most recently when I saw it linked in one of the #MuseumWorkersSpeak chats. “By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness,” author Miya Tokumitsu writes, “DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it….The hallowed path of the entrepreneur always offers this way out of disadvantaged beginnings, excusing the rest of us for allowing those beginnings to be as miserable as they are.”
- By clicking from link to link beginning with a #MuseumWorkersSpeak chat, I ended up at this post at the Leadership Matters blog that discusses the issue of museum salaries. Among quite a few comments, one commenter reported needing both a trust fund and a high-earning spouse in order to stay in the museum field.
- On a related note, a 2014 post on the Center for the Future of Museums’ blog (managed as part of the American Alliance of Museums) stated: “we have, in effect, an oversupply of highly qualified people willing to underbid each other in return for the non-financial benefits of museum work.” The depression of wages seems inevitable when the lowest bid is nothing, with the proliferation of volunteers and unpaid interns.
- Mal Blum’s piece on being asked to donate a musical set to a Pride event in New York City echoes one thread from the #MuseumWorkersSpeak chats: being asked to work not for monetary currency, but for “exposure.” Blum points out another problematic layer in this particular instance: “New York City Pride is asking local LGBTQ artists to donate their labor to their massive event, while still presumably paying many thousands of dollars to a straight celebrity to headline it.”
- One #MuseumWorkersSpeak chat participant linked this blog post from 2013 on whether a museum studies degree will boost one’s chances of getting a museum job (in the context of the UK). Author Mark Carnall made this remark that stuck with me: that studying museums in a formal education setting helps students understand “why museums do the things they do rather than why the museum I work at does the things it does.” This perspective was one aspect of graduate school that I especially appreciated; it is also a distinction that can be applied to many fields of work beyond museums.