There is an outdated perception of the typical museum worker as an intern or retiree who is compensated only with the privilege of doing something they love. However, there are now 249 museum study programs according to the American Alliance of Museums and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a museum workforce of 125,000 with a median wage of under $20 per hour.
It has been those dedicated museum workers who have stepped up to serve their communities during these challenging times. They have served as conveners for conversations and collecting around the Black Lives Matter movement. Museums of all sizes partnered with schools, libraries, and other institutions to provide free and engaging educational opportunities to students in quarantine. The grounds of historic sites became popular sites for outdoor picnics, walking meetings, and safe places for recreation and exploration.
As museum workers thoughtfully, authentically, and enthusiastically rose to these historical moments, how do museum workers find a work/life balance and still care for the cultural and historic resources that our institutions are entrusted with and serve our communities to the best of our ability? Like in every sector, the ongoing pandemic has inspired cadres of museum workers to reevaluate the wellness of their workplace.
At a conference on February 20-22, 2023 at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, DE the Small Museum Association will bring together speakers and practitioners for three days of sessions, forums, and panels to discuss the topic of creating healthy workplaces and fair employment practices in the cultural field.
The conference’s keynote speaker will be Lindsey Baker, Executive Director of Maryland Humanities. Baker’s presentation, entitled "Prioritizing Joy and Showing Grace” is a call to action for those working or volunteering at any of the nation’s thousands of cultural institutions and will challenge small museum folks–paid staff, volunteers, board members, and funders to lead the way in finding a new path where caring for those who do the work is a top priority. The more than one dozen workshops and sessions during the conference will give attendees practical and best practice models to bring back to their museums across the nation.
Registration is now open and the Small Museum Association offers scholarships as well as opportunities for underwriting and corporate sponsorship. More information is available at: https://www.smallmuseum.org/.