I Just Have a Lot of Feelings


It was less than a week ago that I posted about #MuseumWorkersSpeak. I had recently read all the group’s Tweetchats on Storify, and in my blog post, I wrote, “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.”

One of the chats contained a Tweet suggesting that there should be an #ExMuseumWorkersSpeak. Then this week, on June 28 and June 29 respectively, two new pieces were shared in the Emerging Museum Professionals (EMP) Facebook group, titled “It’s Brave to Quit the Museum Field” by Claire Milldrum and “I’m Leaving the Archival Profession: It’s Better This Way” by Jarrett M. Drake.

These posts discuss reasons the authors left the museum profession and the closely related archival profession. Both posts have garnered comments on the posts themselves and in the EMP group. Milldrum’s post in particular has generated a lot of discussion among the EMPs, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe there is enough energy for an #ExMuseumWorkersSpeak space.

The two posts together, I think, raise several interesting questions for discussion:

  • To what extent are the issues raised unique to museums and archives, versus the working world as a whole? (I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.)
  • What does it mean for a field of work to be abusive?
  • How is a field distinct from a profession?
  • Does “writing for a blog” count as donating work? (Maybe if you’re writing as a guest on someone else’s blog? Or maybe if you’re writing a blog that people read? In my case, I feel that blogging is something I do for myself even if no one else reads it; it’s a way to engage with the museum field as a hobby, on my own terms.)
  • What role do museums and archives play in a larger picture of confronting the status quo, even as an individual institution’s role may be focused on presenting the way something is or was?
  • What is the role of choice in each individual ex-museum worker’s departure from the field? Is it a choice if one simply cannot afford to stay?
  • What is the role of former workers or would-be workers in any labor movement? What can we contribute to the conversation? Are we just the girl in Mean Girls who doesn’t even go to this school?

Milldrum plans to write a few more posts on the subject, based on an online survey she conducted of ex-museum workers. (I may have participated in this survey. I have taken a few online surveys about studying and working in the museum field, and I do not remember whether Milldrum’s was one of them.) I am greatly looking forward to reading what she and other fellow ex-museum workers have to say.

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About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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