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After the Canadian Museums Association released its most recent Strategic Plan last July (Canadian Museums Association 2020), I had intended to review it in the context of the focus of this blog. However, I became otherwise occupied at the time, so now return to my responses on various elements of the CMA plan document. This is in preparation for another related post to follow soon.

I provide excerpts from the current strategic plan (Canadian Museums Association 2020). My emphasis in the quotations is shown by underlining & my recommendations made through a museum worker lens are shown in-line with [bolded square brackets].

Goal One 1.1 Objective Reinforce advocacy efforts (p.4): [RECOMMENDATION # 1: Every undertaking by CMA consider its impact on museum workers & Quality of Working Lives (QWL) in the field.]

RECOMMENDATION # 2: Implement commitment to address “gender parity and salary levels of museum professions”[i] & to carry out a QWL survey.

Goal One: beyond networking “organisations,” (p. 4): [RECOMMENDATION # 3: Include networking for workers too since the interests of the institutions & staff are not always identical.]

1.3 Objective: Strengthen the museum workforce today and for the future. Strategic approach: Provide workforce development programs and learning opportunities for museum professionals at all stages (p. 4): [RECOMMENDATION # 4: Beyond “strengthen” meaning to carry increased workloads, CMA focus on “protecting” the museum workforce from exploitation of their love for our work. REMEMBER the fate of overloaded camels! See this ethical obligation presented on the same level as collections & finances in the Ethics Codes of the International Council of Museums (2004: 1) & American Association of Museums (2000: 2).]

Goal Two: Effectively support and further broaden the CMA’s membership. (p. 5) [RECOMMENDATION # 5: CMA recognise that institutional & individual members’ interests are not always identical, so give increased attention to the serious chronic problems with museum working conditions that negatively affect practitioner well-being & drive people out of the field.]

Update the CMA’s professional development offerings, to ensure they are relevant and modernized (p.5): [RECOMMENDATION # 6: Investigate potential negative effects of PD that continually raises expectations of worker performance, yet no additional resources necessary for implementation of new learnings ever materialise.]

Explore the development of an accreditation program, including the establishment of national standards, in collaboration with the provincial and territorial museums associations (p.5): [RECOMMENDATION # 7: TAKE NO ACTION unless & until CMA reviews the unintended negative effects of such accreditation initiatives as extensively detailed in Thistle (2019c).

3.2 Objective: Create a more inclusive, representative and effective governance model. . . Reinvigorate the governance model (p. 5): [Recommendation # 8: Update CMA Resolutions policy to include a requirement to respond to resolution proposers in a timely manner well BEFORE the AGM. CMA fails to respond to requests for the outcome status of the review panel’s process.]

OUR VALUES Diversity, inclusiveness & social responsibility [emphasis­ added) (p. 6): [RECOMMENDATION # 9: This must include CMA taking the “social responsibility” for protecting workers’ QWL in museums as per the ethical obligation stated by the International Council of Museums (2004: 1) & American Association of Museums (2000: 2). I believe Elaine Heuman Gurian (1995, 20-21 ff.) makes the crucial case for this:]

Even if impaired work performance were not the outcome of unabated staff stress, I would proffer another, and perhaps better, reason to pay attention to staff needs. If our work in museums is evidence of our collective commitment to enhancing the quality of life for society, then we must be attentive to maintaining a high quality of life for our work community [emphasis added].

Re CMA Board structure & governance concerns: [RECOMMENDATION # 10: The CMA Board & CMA members need to recruit line workers to the governing body—especially those from CMA-targetted “small organizations” (pp. 2, 3, 5)—to provide this critically important new perspective & influence on CMA planning  & programming directions. The CMA Board requires at least some of its members to advocate for line workers, not more members with museum management positions.]

UPDATE 31 MARCH 2021: Re CMA Ethics Guidelines (Canadian Museums Association (2006: 14) that provides a list of what museum workers “owe” to the public, colleagues, & institution. However, there is no equivalent list of what institutions “owe” to their workers. [RECOMMENDATION # 11: at bare minimum, this ethics document should specify the ethical commitment of museum employers to “protect” paid & volunteer staff following the above international ethics codes.]

Stay tuned for the next near future post on this Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog that will address the Canadian Museums Association initiative to create a new national museums policy for Canada.

References Cited:

American Association of Museums [now ‘Alliance’]. 2000. Code of Ethics for Museums. Washington: American Association of Museums [unpagenated version available at http://www.aam-us.org/resources/ethics-standards-and-best-practices/code-of-ethics (accessed 26 February 2019].

Canadian Museums Association. 2020a. Strategic Plan. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association at https://museums.ca/uploaded/web/New_Website_docs/2020_CMA_Strategic_Plan.pdf [link corrected 21 June 20210].

Canadian Museums Association. 2006. Ethics Guidelines. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwje7dnj59rvAhWCdN8KHa4eDjwQFjAAegQIAxAD&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.museums.ca%2Fuploaded%2Fweb%2Fdocs%2Fethicsguidelines.pdf&usg=AOvVaw21BD1JHWvxA2ACbZt-9oP9 .

Gurian, Elaine Heuman. 2005. Institutional Trauma: Major Change in Museums and its Effect on Staff. Washington: American Association of Museums.

International Council of Museums. 2004. ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums. Paris: International Council of Museums [in PDF format. Very sadly, the most recent edition dated 2017 has substantially limited its 2004 call for protection of workers at] https://icom.museum/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ICOM-code-En-web.pdf  (accessed 27 November 2020).

Thistle, Paul C. 2019c. “Ballooning Expectations: The Human Costs of Aspirations for Small Museum ‘Soaring’.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog posted 30 November 2019 at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/ballooning-expectations-the-human-costs-of-aspirations-for-small-museum-soaring/ (accessed 29 March 2021).


[i] The author has been informed: “The precise focus of that research and any surveys will be determined in due course, and is dependent on a few factors, including for example capacity, budget, competing priorities, member feedback, etc.” Note that the CMA had announced its commitment to “address gender parity and salary levels of museum professions” in the Resolutions section of its 2019 AGM. There is some dispute over whether or not the Resolution wording presented had been moved, seconded, & adopted by a show of hands vote of the CMA members in attendance. The latter vote outcome does not appear in the Minutes of the April 16, 2019 AGM.