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The feature image above is a detail from the Brittany Datchko poster on the preferred future for museums commissioned by Lord Cultural Resources from an informal survey of conference participants at the 2019 CMA Annual Conference. The Museum Association in the UK makes treating workers fairly an ethical requirement for museums.


Here we go again! At the urging of the Canadian Museum Association (CMA) over several years, Canada now is—‘in theory,’ but not yet really—involved in developing a new national museums policy 30 years after the last one was introduced. The CMA has strenuously lobbied for this necessary work because, “The current national museum policy is woefully out-of-date and simply doesn’t reflect a modern Canada — nor the Canadian museum sector.” (Vitali 2020) [emphasis added].

This initiative is on the federal government agenda subsequent to the 2019 task list for the minister responsible & the Canadian Prime Minister’s January 2021 supplementary mandate letter to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in charge of museums. Although the pandemic circumstances have put the initiative on hold (Vitali 2020), “The CMA has offered to lead the museum policy renewal work with — or on behalf of — the Department of Canadian Heritage and museums across Canada and in collaboration with its provincial and territorial partners” (Vitali 2021).

However, one of the reasons I say ‘woe is me’ in relation to federal museum policy is its abject failure to address the critical issue of ‘woeful’ working conditions in our field. I also am concerned that the CMA has not recently—nor in the past—indicated any priority on improving the problematic Quality of Working Lives (QWL) in the museum industry.


Your blogger is old enough to remember the consultation process (Canada 1988) & creation of the last version of federal museum policy in this country 30 years ago. I must say rather discontentedly & very despondently, I fear I have to say exactly the same thing as I did in 1990 about a major deficiency in the former ‘new’ national policy that still remains our current one.

My critical commentary at the time circulated in the Sam Waller Little Northern Museum’s bimonthly newsletter Little Northern Museum Scene No. 38, August 1990. My entire “Editor’s View” in that issue (linked below in the References Cited section) identified the issue of burnout among paid & volunteer workers in northern Manitoba (Thistle 1990). That editorial was my first assay into the focus of this Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog thirty (30) long years ago.

In 1990, I just had visited several museums & spoken with their workers in northern Manitoba to begin planning regional museum advisory & training services. My main concern outlined in my editorial was stated as follows:

excerpt from museum newsletter identifying musuem worker burnout

Excerpt from the Sam Waller Little Northern Museum newsletter Museum Scene No. 38, August 1990.

typed paragraph frm museum newsletter about burnout

Excerpt from the Little Northern Museum Scene newsletter No. 38, August 1990

Yes indeed, burnout. Without any doubt in this blogger’s mind & experience up until the present day, it remains the case that no museum policy before or since 1990, whether national or regional (to my knowledge),

. . . has addressed the looming crisis in the human resource base in our museums. Little or no attention has been paid to the need to support museum workers, to attempt to reduce the mounting stresses in their lives, nor to treat the rampant burnout (Thistle 1990: 1) [emphasis added].

In the midst of management & mission work from 1983 through 1990 carrying out an eventual $1.7 million CAD capital project & starting my new regional museum responsibilities, I personally identified with Newlands’ (1983: 20) detection of “role overload” & resulting “Stress and Distress in Museum Work.” It was only after I moved on to become Director/Curator of the Dawson City Museum & Historical Society in 1999 that I came across a report on the museum system in Yukon, Canada. This study by two of the most respected museum consultants (operating what came to be the largest such firm in the world) had found “dysfunctional burnout” among museum staff & volunteers in the small & remote museum community in Yukon Territory (Lord & Lord 1986: 116), exactly as I discovered in northern Manitoba.

Various initiatives by CMA to lobby for a new national museum policy over the years have been carried out—BUT, absent attention to the above named burnout QWL issue. For example in 2005, a PowerPoint document “Orientations For a New Canadian Museum Policy” was circulated to CMA members. See my comments added in red font on the policy Principles & Themes proposed by the Canadian Museums Association (2005: 5, 7, 8) in the slide show below.

Essentially, there was no indication that problematic working conditions & questions about the very sustainability of work in the museum field were on the CMA radar at the time.

Another one of CMA’s previous initiatives to persuade the federal government to update its museum policy occurred in 2006-2008. However, my analysis & recommendation presented at that time in “Problem Statement: Fully Loaded Camels & Museum Worker Survival” sadly remain exactly the same today, 14 years later:

The talking points promulgated by CMA [19. {Canadian Museums Association 2006: 1-2}] may mention the loss of museum workers and volunteers but this “Key Messages” document speaks solely about museums as institutions. It entirely misses the fact that museum workers as individual human beings are in crisis. The next round of discussion on a new federal museums policy must address crucial human resources issues that face volunteers and paid staff (Thistle 2007: 8) [emphasis added].

More recently, see Thistle (2019b) for a brief summary of the evidence identifying poor working conditions found in the museum industry that has accumulated in the research published from 1983 through 2019. Since that latter date, additional indications of the unheeding overloading & pushing museum workers out of the field have been published in the “Unsupported, Uninsured, Unsustainable” survey report of Collections on Contract (2020). It concluded current working conditions in the museum & related fields,

. . . is affecting the health and wellness of the vast majority of these young professionals. It is clear that this model of employment across the LAM [Library Archive, & Museum] sector is not only unsustainable but also actively harming the field as a whole [emphasis added].

 Similarly, Stimler (2020: 4-5) in his “DYNAMIC SUSTAINABILITY PLATFORM STRATEGY” reports museums & related institutions are,

. . . setting overly ambitious agendas that they do not have the agency or ability to deliver successfully. . . Without a strong strategy, GLAMs can alienate customers, exhaust budgets, waste precious resources, and burn out staff [emphasis added].

Now three decades after my first piece, see my 28 December 2020 blog post “AASLH ‘Small is Mighty’ Idea Misses the Point About Burnout” (Thistle 2020) [emphasis added]. It is a much more extensive critique of the current status of burnout among museum workers than my 1990 newsletter editorial but, apparently, this point still needs to be made! For example, I have noted that the most recent Center for the Future of Museums TrendsWatch that addresses the burnout Issue in the U.S.A. was unable to find even one data source taken directly from the working conditions specifically in the museum industry. This sad fact has been acknowledged by the TrendsWatch author Elizabeth Merritt (2020; cf. Merritt 2019).

Although formal surveys have been carried out in Canada (e.g. Dubé 2001), it should be noted here that, in 2019, the CMA had committed to carry out a formal survey on the working condition-related issue of “gender parity and salary levels of museum professions” & privately had indicated an intent to survey its members on QWL issues in future. However, the current COVID-19 & other crises have intervened, so the lack of such survey results will seriously obstruct proper national policy development work in my view. I recommend that CMA attend to the formal & informal investigations on museum working conditions that have been reported to date during the national museum policy drafting process.

The persistence of irrationally high expectations typically attended by a total lack of sufficient resources for implementing them prevents the achievement of the unrealistic museum goals identified by Stimler (2020: 4-5). By default then, museum workers have to work longer, harder, & faster to come anywhere close to undeliverable objectives. Recognise that layoffs often prompt museum spokespersons to say “we will do more with less” as did one museum after laying off a total of seventy (70) permanent & contract workers (Bradshaw 2009). Such irrational thinking can be operationalised ONLY by exploiting museum practitioners’ willingness to work longer & harder than they are paid to do. A new national museum policy that will seriously address poor—and in many instances illegal—working conditions & burnout in our business is an absolute necessity in the view of this observer & many overloaded stressed out museum workers.


The above circumstance is not for lack of ideas available to solve the problem. In the lead up to drafting a new national museums policy, I urge the CMA & my readers to consult the “Solutions! Shared Working Document” (Thistle 2014) with 20 pages of suggestions generated by working museum professionals at 4 museum conference brainstorming sessions between 2006 & 2014—3 Canadian & one American. Since that time, 3 of my additional related conference session proposals using the alternate “brainwriting”[i] strategy for various national & regional conferences focussed on generating ‘solutions’ have been turned down. One conference organiser said my proposal was ‘too political’ to be considered for the event.

The 21 sections of content in the above “Solutions!” document range from Boards through Volunteers. Of course, a wide range of potential solutions are the focus of 57 posts here on this blog that are linked in the “Task Saturation Solutions” Category in the sidebar. These long-format fully documented essays also are accessible via the more finely identified topics in the Tags cloud to the right or on the Index (annotated) page.

Otherwise, in 2021, I grant that the “self-care” solution is increasingly being recommended to museum practitioners. In my efforts to follow information on museum working conditions, at present it seems to me that ‘self-care’ is the only potential solution on offer by professional museum organisations to stressed workers in our industry (e.g. Merritt 2019: 40-47; Merritt & Rao 2019).

Museum workers themselves can improve their own QWL significantly by reading about & adopting how to say “No” to unresourced expectations that management, governments, & visitors place on them. See the important resource book, The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes by William Ury (2007), Director of the Global Negotiation Project at Harvard. Ury sets out the practical strategy to base a “No” on first saying a positive “Yes” to our own values and core interests and finally saying “Yes” to negotiated solutions that respect the real world and the worker’s place in it (Ury 2007: 2, 17-18, 34, 43, 80-1, passim).

Compare this too with a solid answer to museum professional organisation pressure to take up accreditation processes given by a member of SMAC, the Small Museum Administrators Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. In the face of:

. . . being bombarded more and more with “why don’t you do x?” [6 other ‘x’ examples follow] . . . This is a small museum and it has one employee. That means I have to make difficult decisions about how to use our time and where I can be. I can’t be everywhere and I can’t do everything. So I am where I can be and do I what I can do. That has to be enough for now” [emphasis added] (quoted in Thistle 2019d).

Nevertheless, it must be said here as I have often repeated (most recently in the 28 December 2020 fully documented essay posted on this blog Thistle 2020):

. . . the vast majority of heritage practitioners’ work intensification, stress, & burnout remains beyond an individual’s control. The primary sources of stress at work arise from unending collegial, management, professional organisation, professional development, regulator, & public expectation inflation (cf. Posen 2013: 5, 38, 45, 321; Duxbury & Higgins 2012: 4-6; Green 2006: 57).

PLEASE, first & foremost, we need to fix the CAUSES of the museum worker burnout problem collectively, not simply add another expectation that museum workers will deal with their symptoms of stress individually!

If readers want—& CMA absolutely needs if it is to lead the development of a new national museum policy in this country—a ‘prescription’ for solving the poor working conditions in the museum industry that is not “all”[i] addressed by self-care strategies, please consult your blogger’s primary resource book: Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress by M.D. David Posen (2013). It is widely available in community & academic libraries as well as cheaply on used book web sites. Two of this title’s sections “WHAT TO DO” about stress and its “PREVEVENTION” also should be compulsory reading for every museum manager—especially those responsible for directing staff, every museum professional organisation staff member involved in planning PD, every museum regulator, & every overloaded museum worker (Posen 2013: 225-325).

First & foremost, Dr. Posen prescribes that organisational management must reduce unrealistic expectations & then dial down the damaging volume & velocity of work expected. They must stop the “abuse” of workers, eschewing long hours practice that Posen identifies as “stupid” in terms not only of organisational productivity, but crucially worker well-being.

Action Items:

I do fully support the CMA’s recent attempts to persuade the government of Canada to get busy on the drafting of a new national museum policy. Currently however, I also recognise that the CMA already has a tremendous load of issues on its own plate. Addressing the severe damage done by COVID-19 pandemic to museum institutions that causes increased levels of stress on “all” workers, a critical push for museums to address sustainability in light of climate change, dealing with DEAI & racism in museums, as well as its own current governance challenge. HOWEVER, apparently there never has been & never will be a ‘good time’ for the CMA to be intentional & resolute about addressing the long-term & current human resources crisis in the museum industry.

In my view, the new Canadian national museums policy development process combined with the crucial ‘reset’ necessitated by the negative outcomes of the pandemic are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand back, analyse the major weaknesses & threats—e.g. worker burnout—in our museum workplaces.

From the wider world of work, I have noted here previously that the World Health Organization (WHO) (2019) now has placed “burn-out” in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) defining it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” [emphasis added] (cf. Sanofi Canada 2020: 3, 8, passim; Posen 2013: 102-113, passim).

A few years ago, I had asked & been informed by a Canadian Museums Association group insurance provider representative that claims for stress-related issues now exceed physical injury claims. In 2020, a survey report by a major Canadian health care provider strongly advises paying serious attention to managing this burnout risk:

We have to get at this now, or else mental health claims at staggering levels are going to be the new norm [emphasis added] (Sanofi Canada 2020: 8, 9, 35).

Short of unheeding acceptance of museums continuing to exploit “willing slaves” as defined[ii] by Guardian columnist and Director of the London-based think tank Demos, Madeline Bunting (2004: xix, 7, passim) & in light of museum folk who work as “occupational devotees” defined[iii] by sociologist of work Robert A. Stebbins (2004: ix, 10, 17, 76), I again remind & desperately hope to persuade CMA & “all” stakeholders of the critical need to “protect” the museum workforce from exploitation & burnout as a primary goal for the development of a new national museum policy as per the international museum organisation codes of ethics obligation presented on the same level as collections & finances (International Council of Museums 2004: 1; American Association of Museums 2000: 2).

I argue, museums as institutions “acting in a corporate manner” have ethical “duties and responsibilities” (Canadian Museums Association 2006b: 4). Museums as inanimate physical plants can achieve absolutely nothing without managers committed to maintaining worker well-being. Abusing museum workers’ love for their jobs—a strategy that I see is all too common in the museum field—drives both newly-trained emerging (Milldrum 2017) & experienced museum professionals out of the field (Morris 2019; Ocello et al. 2017: 6, 8, 10). Of those workers who had left the museum field, the latter survey reported 33% gave Work/Life Balance & 12% Hours among reasons for having left. Among the entire sample Work/Life Balance was the primary reason for actual & potential quitting given by 18% of those with 16-20 years & 20% by with 21-25 years of museum experience.

In developing a new national museums policy, “all” stakeholders including the CMA must ask how many museum institutions benefit from their employees labouring for love rather than money—and do so illegally working overtime without compensation? For example, see Thistle (2019b: 223-7, 229, 234-5). The new book Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Type Media Center fellow and independent labor & economic justice journalist Sarah Jaffe (2021) argues “doing what you love is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives.”

Working without being compensated for such labour of love is illegal under the Canadian Federal jurisdiction regulated by the Canada Labour Code according to information obtained from a federal Labour Program official in reply to my inquiry. This is so even if the worker wants to work without being paid (Bhullar 2007). This would include all of Canada’s national museums & others that are federal incorporated bodies. I wager that many if not “all” provincial & territorial jurisdictions also have legislation that makes working without compensation illegal. See for example the Employment Standards Act governing the province where I live (Ontario 2000). This creates a need for museum prosecution risk management regarding unpaid work.

Clearly therefore, unless both museum policy & management practice are morally obliged to address the need to change the work culture & poor quality of working lives that demonstrably bedevil our industry, the sustainability of work in the museum field is in serious danger. Although in 2021 we continue to have a large stream of young “coolies” emerging to continue building museum ‘railroad’ projects across the country, we also now have mounting evidence that their unobtrusive ‘disappearance,’ if not burial, along the museum right of way continues apace.

The burnout issue has remained under the radar in the Canadian museum industry for the past 30 years and even since Philippe Dubé’s 2001 “Towards a New Generic Model for Small and Medium-Sized Museums” article in the CMA’s own journal Muse. M. Dubé reported on an extremely rare QWL survey of museum workers carried out in Quebec. He argued that his findings show that definition of a professional standard museum by outside regulators creates “a trap that makes museum work increasingly complex, and even absurd” [emphasis added] (Dubé 2001: 8). Without any perceivable movement on this issue since 2001, Robert R. Janes’ (2009: 19) Museums in a Troubled World likewise maintained that high professional standards are among “the multifarious and often contradictory requirements of museum work” that “hopelessly overburden” modern museum workers.

The only one of the CMA’s new museum policy goals directly addressing workers that has been expressed this time is to “Help guide the workforce toward the development and implementation of best-practices” (Vitali 2020). However, there must be a recognition by CMA that the implementation of ‘best practice’ standards inevitably creates a heavy cost to museum human resources. See supporting documentation in Thistle (2019c) & RECOMMENDATION # 7 in the previous blog post (Thistle 2021). CMA must therefore ensure ‘best practices’ absolutely must have an iron-clad connection to the supply of financial resources actually required to implement them. CMA must connect museum worker QWL to its “Greater financial support of Canada’s museums is urgently and desperately needed” (Canadian Museums Association 2020). I reiterate; changes to Canada’s national museum policy must be made only in view of their impact on museum practitioner Quality of Working Lives. To fail at this prerequisite is to condemn museum paid & volunteer staff to constant ongoing work intensification, pressures to work uncompensated hours, resulting increasing stress levels, burnout, & their ultimate push-out from the field.

A current CMA undated[iv] web page resource “Human Resources Guidelines” mentions “health and safety” but apparently makes no recommendation on the responsibility of museum HR to protect the QWL & mental health in museum workplaces. Various keyword searches on the above web page for relevant terms such as ‘stress’ & ‘mental health’ fail to find any hits.

Whether or not CMA is given the ‘lead’ on developing a new national museum policy, my unalterable view is that museums as employers & volunteer managers need to “protect” workers from both physical and mental illness arising from abusive labour practices as per the ICOM & AAM codes referenced above.

At the 2019 CMA “What now? What’s next?” themed conference, a trade show exhibitor, Lord Cultural Resources booth was recruiting informal survey input from passers-by regarding their preferred future for museums. At the conference closing keynote address summarising the main conference themes, Gail Dexter Lord, President of Lord Cultural Resources, commented on a poster her firm had commissioned by Brittany Datchko to illustrate the survey results & handed copies out. Ms. Lord mentioned only one image among the many visions for the future presented by the poster: “treat workers fairly.”

detail of a poster with ideas about preferred futures for museums

Detail from the Brittany Datchko poster on the preferred future for museums commissioned by Lord Cultural Resources from an informal survey of conference participants at the 2019 CMA Annual Meeting. The Museum Association in the UK (2016: 19) makes treating workers fairly an ethical requirement for museums. The largest excerpt of this poster the author was able to scan is accessible on the SOLVING TASK SATURATION MEDIA page link in the ribbon at the top of this page.

Since your blogger always prints in caps, my input to this informal survey crammed onto a post-it note went something like: ‘TREAT WORKERS FAIRLY. UK MUSEUMS ASSOCIATION ETHICS REQUIRE THIS.’ Although the version I had consulted previously on various occasions simply stated, “treat workers fairly,” the current UK Code of Ethics for Museums now affirms the following ethical obligation: “Abide by a fair, consistent and transparent workforce policy for all those working in the museum, including those in unpaid positions” (Museums Association (UK): 2016: 19). I hope I was not the only survey participant to put forward this ‘fair treatment of workers’ idea.

Elements Needed for a New National Museum Policy for Canada:

As it leads and/or provides input into the creation of a new national museums policy, in summary of the above analysis, I make the following recommendations to CMA during the proposed national museum policy development process:

1) If museum human resources are indeed the ‘most important resource’ at our disposal, “all” changes to the national museums policy going forward should be made with the criterion improving Quality of Working Lives in mind.

2) Prioritise a policy requirement for museums to ‘treat workers fairly’ & stop advancing progress in our field by default exploitation of practitioners’ love for their jobs.  

3) Since the uncompensated work hours that are all too common in museum work are illegal, & the CMA Ethics document states under the section “C. 2 Legal considerations: . . . must also avoid even the remotest suspicion of compliance in any illegal activity” (Canadian Museums Association 2006: 6), implement this wording in the new policy to require institutional adherence to relevant labour laws in their jurisdictions. The new policy should require museums to strictly avoid illegal work practices.

4) Commit government to avoid increasing expectations of museum worker performance without also providing the sufficient ways & means of attaining them. [Museum workers already are fully-loaded camels striving ‘mightily’ to avoid breaking their backs!] Those smaller museums with limited resources should not be disadvantaged by the new policy in any way.

5) CMA should point the federal government to its own comprehensive review of labour standards in Canada that recommended the 8-hour work day be maintained & that no worker should “be subject to coercion, or . . . be required to work so many hours that he or she is effectively denied a personal or civic life.” In this light, the new museum policy should afford museum workers with the right to befree from overwork and excessive work intensification (Arthurs 2006: x, xiii, 68-9, 110-1) [emphasis added].

6) Since the survey work to investigate gender parity and salary levels & the intended inquiry into working conditions in museums have not been initiated, CMA needs to review “all” the museum literature reporting formal & informal inquiries into the Quality of Working Lives in the museum industry.

Museum Worker Call to Action:

A) Although I have failed to find any reference since CMA Annual Report 2016 (p. 4) regarding CMA’s former “museums day on parliament hill” advocacy effort that paralleled ongoing efforts in other countries, post-COVID-19 epidemic, if any future advocacy effort like this takes place, museum practitioners who are concerned about poor working conditions in our field should sign up to participate in lobbying Members of Parliament to reflect on & act to reduce QWL issues in the museum field.

B) Otherwise, CMA members are urged to lobby their local Members of Parliament about the need for a new national museum policy to address overwork, resulting stress, burnout, & push-out of emerging & experienced museum professionals from the field. Other issues outlined above or experienced in your own working conditions concerns also need reinforcement to politicians at the right time—which is NOW!

C) Ditto above lobby directed at CMA Board members.

It’s time to fix the causes of burnout in museum work.

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 9 April 2021)].

Arthurs, Harry W. 2006. Fairness at Work: Federal Labour Standards for the 21st Century. Ottawa: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Bhullar, Charan. 2007. E-mail from Charan Bhullar, Early Resolution Officer, HRSDC Federal Labour Program, North West Pacific Region – Vancouver to Paul C. Thistle on 18 June 2007 in response to my inquiry about working overtime without pay is posted on this blog at https://solvetasksaturation.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/canada-labour-code-overtime.pdf (accessed 1 April 2021).

Bradshaw, J. 2009. “AGO cuts 23 permanent staff.” The Globe and Mail update April 4, 2018 at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ago-cuts-23-permanent-staff/article1156582/ (accessed 5 April 2021).

Bunting, Madeline. 2004. Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Canada. 1988. Challenges and Choices: Federal Policy and Program Proposals for Canadian Museums. Ottawa: Supply & Services Canada.

Canadian Museums Association. [2021?]. “Human Resources Guidelines.” [No date posted.] at https://www.museums.ca/site/hr_toolkit#section1 (accessed 6 April 2021).

Canadian Museums Association. 2020. Written Submission for the Pre-Budget Consultations in Advance of the Upcoming Federal Budget” posted August 7, 2020 at https://www.museums.ca/site/aboutthecma/newsandannouncements/august72020 (accessed 23 March 2021).

Canadian Museums Association. 2006a. “Summer Campaign Tool Kit: Key Messages” Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association [Original link to this is now dead & a search of the current CMA website produces no hits for this document. The author has a copy I could provide if you wish to send a message via the Contact page.].

Canadian Museums Association. 2006b. 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 (accessed 31 March 2021).

Canadian Museums Association. 2005. “Orientations For a New Canadian Museum Policy.” PowerPoint document circulated by CMA in an e-mail to members on 21 Mar 2005 15:12:03 -0500. 

Collections on Contract. 2020. “Unsupported, Uninsured, Unsustainable: The effect of contracting on young professionals.” posted February 20, 2020, updated December 11, 2020 9:58 p.m. at https://collectionsoncontract.com/2020/02/20/unsupported-uninsured-unsustainable-the-effect-of-contracting-on-young-professionals/  (accessed 29 March 2021).

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

Duxbury, Linda and Higgins, Christopher. 2012. Revisiting Work-Life Issues in Canada: The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada. Ottawa: Carleton University and the University of Western Ontario http://newsroom.carleton.ca/wp-content/files/2012-National-Work-Long-Summary.pdf   (accessed 23 March 2021).

Green, Francis. 2006. Demanding Work: The Paradox of Job Quality in the Affluent Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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 9 April 2021).

Jaffe, Sarah. 2021. Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone. New York: Bold Type Books, Hachette Book Group at https://www.boldtypebooks.com/titles/sarah-jaffe/work-wont-love-you-back/9781568589398/# (accessed 6 April 2021).

Janes, Robert R. 2009. Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance, or Collapse? New York: Routledge.

Lord, Gail Dexter & Lord, Barry. 1986. Yukon Museums Policy and System Plan. Whitehorse, YT: Government of Yukon.

Merritt, Elizabeth. 2020. E-mail Merritt to Thistle dated Mon 2020-07-27 11:56 AM.

Merritt, Elizabeth. 2019. TrendsWatch 2019. Washington: Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums https://www.aam-us.org/programs/center-for-the-future-of-museums/trendswatch-2019/ (accessed 28 December 2020).

Merritt, Elizabeth & Rao, Seema. 2019. “Self Care in the Museum Workplace.” Blackbaud Webinar on 8 August [access restricted to registrants, but the presenters’ answers to subsequent Q & A posted on Aug 27, 2019 is available at https://www.aam-us.org/2019/08/27/questions-and-suggestions-from-the-blackbaud-self-care-webinar/ (accessed 23 March 2021). Some additional ‘self-care’ resources are freely available via a search of the American Alliance of Museums web site (accessed 23 March 2021).]

Morris, Martha. 2019. “Reinventing Museum Careers.” American Alliance of Museums Career Management web page blog posted on November 18, 2019 https://www.aam-us.org/2019/11/18/reinventing-museum-careers/ (accessed 5 April 2021).

Museums Association (UK). 2016. Code of Ethics for Museums. London, UK: Museums Association https://ma-production.ams3.digitaloceanspaces.com/app/uploads/2020/06/18145449/20012016-code-of-ethics-single-page-8.pdf (accessed 3 April 2021).

Newlands, David L. 1983. “Stress and Distress in Museum Work.” Muse Vol. I, No. 2 (Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association).

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  (accessed 1 April 2021).

Ontario. 2000. Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41 https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/00e41#BK40 (accessed 23 October 2017).

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

Sanofi Canada. 2020. The Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey 2020. Laval, QC: Sanofi Canada at  https://www.sanofi.ca/-/media/Project/One-Sanofi-Web/Websites/North-America/Sanofi-CA/Home/en/Products-and-Resources/sanofi-canada-health-survey/sanofi-canada-healthcare-survey-2020-EN.pdf?la=en&hash=F1C763AA6B2F32C0BF2E623851FD05FD (accessed 1 April 2021).

Stebbins, Robert A. 2004. Between Work and Leisure: The Common Ground of Two Separate Worlds. New Brunswick, USA: Transaction Publishers.

Stimler, Neal. 2020. WHITE PAPER: GLAMs’ (GALLERIES, LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES, AND MUSEUMS) DYNAMIC SUSTAINABILITY PLATFORM STRATEGY. SAN DIEGO, CA: Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC), BPOC.ORG posted October 6, 2020 at DOI: https://doi.org/10.47786/TLOU3193 (accessed 29 March 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2021. “CMA Strategic Plan 2020 Commentary (for future consideration).” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog posted 30 March 2021 at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2021/03/30/cma-strategic-plan-2020-commentary-for-future-consideration/ (accessed 6 April 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2020. “AASLH ‘Small is Mighty’ Idea Misses the Point About Burnout.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog posted 28 December 2020 at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/aaslh-small-is-mighty-idea-misses-the-point-about-burnout/  (accessed 23 March 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2019a. “Does public history work itself require repair?” History@Work blog posted 20 February. Indianapolis, IN: National Council on Public History https://ncph.org/history-at-work/does-public-history-work-itself-require-repair/#_ednref4   (accessed 29 March 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2019b. “Decent Working Conditions are Essential for Decent Compensation” pp. 222-244 in Dawn E. Salerno, Mark S. Gold, & Kristina L. Durocher eds. For Love or Money: Confronting the State of Museum Salaries. Edinburgh, UK & Cambridge, MA: MusesumsEtc, pp. 222-224 https://solvetasksaturation.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/thistle_decentworkingconditions.pdf (accessed 29 March 2021).

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).

Thistle, Paul C. 2019d. “Reactions to Ballooning Expectations.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog posted 14 December 2019 at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/reactions-to-ballooning-expectations/  (accessed 1 April 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2014b. “Solutions! Shared Working Document.” Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog https://solvetasksaturation.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/solutions-copy-post-cma-revised-2014.pdf (accessed 24 March 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 2007. “Problem Statement: Fully Loaded Camels & Museum Worker Survival.” Unpublished paper based on various previous interventions located at https://solvetasksaturation.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/fullyloadedcamelspositionpaper4.pdf (accessed 29 March 2021).

Thistle, Paul C. 1990. “Editor’s View.” Museum Scene No. 38, August 1990, p. 1 (Sam Waller Little Northern Museum) at https://solvetasksaturation.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/littlenorthernmuseumeditorial.pdf (accesed 6 April 2021) .

Ury, William. 2007. The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes. New York: Bantam Dell [Also see this blogger’s review at https://solvetasksaturation.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/review-of-best-book-for-fully-loaded-camels/ (accessed 29 March 2021)].

Vitali, Vanda. 2021. “Statement by Canadian Museums Association regarding supplementary mandate letter to Heritage Minister” posted on January 18, 2021 at https://www.museums.ca/site/aboutthecma/newsandannouncements/january182021 (accessed 31 March 2021)/

Vitali, Vanda. 2020. “Written brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage in support of its Study of the Challenges to Art, Culture, Heritage and Sport Sectors caused by COVID-19.” Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association posted December 16, 2020 at https://museums.ca/site/aboutthecma/newsandannouncements/december162020 (accessed 23 March 2021).

World Health Organization. 2019. Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases” web page posted 28 May 2019 at https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-phenomenon-international-classification-of-diseases (accessed 27 November 2020).


[i] Brainwriting is an alternative method to oral brainstorming that prevents domination of input by aggressive speakers. Brainwriting encourages a more uniform participation within a group . . . by driving inspiration from other members in a cyclical way by writing three ideas on a sheet of paper & then passing it on to one of the six persons in your table group. Without talking, each person then reads the ideas already on the worksheet they now have in front of them and uses these as inspiration to expand, enhance, jump off from, or to write 3 other entirely new ideas. It generates up to 108 ideas in a short amount of time & is aimed at aiding innovation processes (developed by Bernd Rohrbach). See https://alternativecma2016session.wordpress.com/brainwriting-solutions-to-task-saturation-stress-among-museum-workerss/ (accessed 6 April 2021).

[i] The word “all” in quotations used on this blog is an ironic reference to the American Alliance of Museums’ push for ‘all’ small museums to attempt accreditation & achieve ‘all’ museum standards as presented in the November/December 2018 Yellow Balloon issue of the AAM Museum journal analysed in Thistle (2019c).

[ii] Bunting’s definition of the term “willing slave” includes acceptance of the need to work more hours than contracted to do on a regular as opposed to an occasional basis, this leading to structurally longer hours & soaring stress levels among various other negative effects.

[iii] According to Stebbins “occupational devotees” possess “a strong and positive attachment to a form of self-enhancing work, where the sense of achievement is high and the core activity (set of tasks) is endowed with such intense appeal so that the line between work and leisure is virtually erased.” They operate with a high value commitment and a “profound love for the job” that, significantly, is regarded as “socially important, highly challenging, intensely absorbing, immensely appealing . . . [& feel] rewarded by self-actualisation or self-development” (Stebbins 2004: ix, 10, 17, 76). In essence, then love for the job leads these devottees to over-commit & overwork.

[iv] Page info pop-up screen reports only the date of access.