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Some Canadian followers of this blog may listen to CBC Radio One’s programme “Now or Never.” The show hosts interact with widely diverse individuals & facilitate them in making changes, big or small, in their lives. I say ‘listen up!’

Is it “now or never” for museum workers to take action on problematic museum working conditions? See the previous 18 January 2018 post here (Thistle 2018).

Following from previous posts here dealing with poor pay—for all workers & especially so for women in our field—as well as unsustainable levels of overwork expected from museum workers, may I suggest that the upcoming 2018 Canadian Museums Association (CMA) National Conference, April 9-12 in Vancouver is the venue for CMA members to initiate resolution(s) of these problems.

These dilemmas are not going away—indeed they continue to deteriorate. Recent announcements of “re-structuring” [read as “doing more with less”] in the field (Knott 2018) duplicate difficulties for museum workers identified by Sullivan (2015). Of course, museum workers are not alone in facing decent work deficits as identified in Canadian Dr. David Posen’s (1913) book Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress. It is highly recommended reading for fully loaded museum worker camels.

If readers’ own experiences at work are have not yet convinced you about the need for museum workers to take action sooner than later on various working condition issues, please consult the following sources:

  • Poor pay generally & for women in particular: Baldwin (2018), American Alliance of Museums (2017), Nonprofit Quarterly (2014)
  • Workers leaving the museum field: Milldrum (2017), Erdman et al. (2017), Ocello et al. (2017)
  • Wide ranging dissatisfaction among emerging professionals: Greenberg & Pelaez (2015)
  • Overwork: Posen (2013), Sullivan (2015), Thistle (2017).

Be Counted

In light of the above, may I suggest that museum workers who are concerned about these issues & who plan to attend the CMA Annual General Meeting introduce one or more resolutions requesting plans of action from CMA on moving toward gender pay equity and/or investigation of current museum workers & those who have recently left the field about the quality of working lives in museums.

The CMA rules for proper presentation can be found in the PDF “Resolutions Policy and Procedures”.

Is it “now or never” yet?

In closing, your blogger, Paul C. Thistle, would very much appreciate obtaining details on any & all resolutions put up for debate at the 2018 CMA AGM along with the results of  votes held on the above issues.  Please add your reports in the comments to this post.

References Cited:

American Alliance of Museums. 2017. “News Release: American Alliance of Museums Partners with 11 Regional and State Museum Associations to Produce 2017 Salary Survey: Comprehensive Study Analyzes 52 Museum Positions on National, Local Levels” 20 June. Washington: American Alliance of Museums [“Two-thirds of all full-time paid museum professionals in the sample are women, and women outnumber men in 44 of the 52 full-time positions. However, they typically receive less pay than their male peers” (American Alliance of Museums 2017.]

Baldwin, Joan. 2018. “What’s Missing From “7 Factors That Drive Museum Wages Down”?” Leadership Matters post on March 4, 2018 https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2018/03/04/whats-missing-from-7-factors-that-drive-museum-wages-down/?wref=tp (accessed 19 March 2018). Also see A Call for Gender Equity in the Museum Workplace: https://gemmgenderequity.wordpress.com/call-to-action/ (accessed 19 March 2018).

Erdman, Sarah et al. 2017. “Leaving the Museum Field.” Alliance Labs blog [American Alliance of Museums] posted 22 September https://www.aam-us.org/2017/09/22/leaving-the-museum-field/ (accessed 6 October 2020).

Greenberg, Alyssa & Pelaez, Nina. 2015. “Unsafe Ideas: Building Museum Worker Solidarity for Social Justice.” Center for the Future of Museums Blog posted 2 June at http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.ca/2015/06/unsafe-ideas-building-museum-worker.html.

Knott, Jonathan. 2018. “ULC Culture’s restructure plans come under fire.” Museums Association (UK) Museums Journal posted 14 March 2018 https://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/14032018-ucl-culture-restructure-plans-under-fire?dm_i=2VBX,O6CH,27LJBV,2HBKM,1 (accessed 19 March 2018).

Milldrum, Claire. 2017. “Why I Left The Museum Field: A Guest Post By Claire Milldrum.” ExhibiTricks: A Museum/Exhibit/Design Blog posted 11 September http://blog.orselli.net/2017/09/why-i-left-museum-field-guest-post-by.html .

Nonprofit Quarterly. 2014. [NOT CURRENTLY ACCESSIBLE: Pay deficits in the case of women in museum work for example are well-documented. Nonprofit Quarterly March 2014 reporting on National Center for Arts Research found that women leading art museums “earn 79 [to 71 for small museums] cents on the dollar paid to male peers,” The GuideStar 2013 Nonprofit Compensation Report finds similar differential between pay for men compared to women across all categories. 2012 American Association of Museums study reports women make 78%.]

Ocello, Claudia et al. 2017. “Why are Great Museum Workers Leaving the Field? Survey by Claudia Ocello, Dawn Salerno, Sarah Erdman, & Marieke Van Damme.” https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_aHdxmG0Jdb4deqsjyhH9eoDUIPXz_EdkU-7gWuXDwE/edit?usp=sharing .

Posen, David. 2013. Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc.

Sullivan, Nicola. 2015. “Museum Professionals Have to Meet Higher Demands Due to Cuts.” Museums Journal. Museums Association, UK http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/06052015-staff-stress (accessed 19 March 2018).

Thistle, Paul C. 2018. “Action? on Museum Workers Leaving the Field.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers post 18 January 2018 https://wordpress.com/view/solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com (accessed 22 March 2018).

Thistle, Paul C. 2017. “Museum Workers Leaving the Field: Survey Results & Solutions.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers post 14 November 2017 https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/museum-workers-leaving-the-field-survey-results-solutions/ (accessed 22 March 2018) [as well as many other posts on the Solving Task Saturation blog].