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Followers of this blog are strongly encouraged to consider providing your experience in museum work to a formal academic study of working conditions in our field.

The following promotion appeared in the most recent Association of Manitoba Museums newsletter, but the call for participants is to all Canadian or American museum workers.

Kaitlyn McIntosh, a research assistant to Davina DesRoches, an assistant professor in the Sociology department at the University of Winnipeg, is inviting current or former museum, art gallery, or historical site workers to participate in an interview where Davina would ask you to share some of your thoughts, reflections, and experiences working at these institutions. This research is part of a larger comparative study looking at various aspects of contemporary museum work.

Davina and Kaitlyn are specifically looking to interview current or former museum, art gallery, or historic site workers from institutions which have recently undergone significant restructuring or other major changes such as unionization, cutbacks, layoffs, privatization, or COVID-19 related changes.

Participants can be full or part time workers, from any level and department, and from any size institution across Canada and the United States. Interviews will be conducted via video conferencing software, such as Zoom and will last approximately 30 minutes to one hour.

If you are interested in getting more information about taking part in Davina and Kaitlyn’s study please contact Kaitlyn directly by using the email address uw.soc.ra@gmail.com.

From the study’s “Letter of Information/Consent, Museum Labour Practices and Collective Action:”

What is the study about?

Over time, a contradiction has emerged in museum employment: on the one hand, the field has rapidly professionalized, with employees in even the lowest ranking positions expected to obtain post-secondary education and continuously acquire new skills and competencies, and working in a museum is often framed as a desirable, and even glamourous, vocation; on the other hand, museum workers are increasingly confronted with declining levels of compensation, insecure employment, and shrinking labour protections. The purpose of this study is to explore how this tension plays out in museums, particularly in in terms of worker autonomy and advancement. I am interested in learning how museum workers like yourself are responding, both individually and collectively, to attempts by museum administration to import private-sector rationalities and practices into the museum sector – including, for example, short-term contracts and temporary employment, cutbacks to benefits and wages, and the privatization of museum services.

Your blogger found the interview questions & process to be extremely worthwhile. Please take this rare opportunity to have your say in this extremely important formal research project.  The last one your blogger has found in all of North America [apart from Tyson (2013)] is that one carried out in Quebec during the early part of the new century by Dr. Philippe Dubé (see summary of findings in Dubé 2001).

biligual abstract of research on working conditions in Quebec, Canada museums

Abstract of Dubé’s research findings on working conditions in Quebec museums early in the 2000s.

Reference Cited:

Dubé, Philippe. 2001. “View: Towards a New Generic Model for Small and Medium-Sized Museums.” Muse 19 (1): 8-9.

Tyson, Amy M. 2013. The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines. Amherst & Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.