An Open Letter to All Museum Directors, Trustees and Purse Holders
Recently I was able to do another whirlwind international tour and something was highlighted once again — people love museums. And people who work in museums love museums.
So why do you keep working against us?
The issues are usually very similar:
- Lack of money
- Lack of resources
- Lack of management support
- Low Morale
While these issues might possibly always be there, some things you can change to help elevate these issues.
Lack of money: For argument’s sake, we’ll take money off the table because lets be honest, it’s a common denominator worldwide. If we can sort the other issues, the money issues might actually be less of an issue.
Lack of resources: Now this is where with proper support we can be doing so much more to collaborate and share resources. Lots of museum professionals are sharing knowledge on social media (and there are so many closed Facebook groups to use as an example). But how about sharing physical resources?
At MuseumEast Conference (Nova Scotia, Canada), I ran a MuseumCamp where sharing of knowledge and physical equipment was a topic. An example of a solution could be something similar being done in Denmark with http://mmex.dk — an umbrella organization that works with all size institutions in sharing knowledge, equipment, creating workshops, etc. It’s a solution I felt could work well with Nova Scotia museums as, like so many places, a lot of the smaller/medium museums are doing similar work with a lot of cross-over which could be done more efficiently if they communicated more amongst themselves. NB: This could work throughout Canada and most countries.
Lack of Management Support: Over the years of working with the museum sector, possibly the most annoying thing to hear is ‘I wouldn’t be allowed to do that at my museum/gallery.’ Often my first question is ‘Did you even try to ask or are you assuming a no?’
But isn’t it sad that staff always assume you will say no instead of a yes? That to me is a reflection on the lack of support they feel from you. I get that museums/galleries need to be run as a business (now more than ever) but demoralizing staff because they have museum related skillsets and not a Business degree is not healthy or sustainable.
You need to step up and start to recognize and value what your staff is doing. Usually, most staff are going above and beyond what is written in their job description because they are passionate and care (lets be honest, no one works in the culture sector for the pay!).
Low Morale: This sort of falls under Lack of Management Support but felt it needs to be highlighted separately as the number of good employees leaving the sector or going out on stress doesn’t seem to be a big enough clue so clearly it needs to be spelled out.
I’m going to use the example of Communication teams within the cultural sector but really you can choose any department to see how low morale has become especially over the last couple of years.
Social and Digital teams (whether it was a one-person team or a team of 10) use to reflect wonderful personalities for their brand. Every day you knew you could reach out to a museum or gallery on a social media platform and have a response. But then management got involved and wanted to have authority over every single update going out. Then every single update had to be about marketing. Then every single update was scheduled. I’m bored typing this let alone having to be a consumer of it online.
How do you think it makes your employees feel when you are basically saying you don’t trust them to do the job you hired them for? How long do you think they will stay in the job or sector when someone who is paid more but knows less in the specialized field feels their words are valued more than those who actually know what they are doing.
I’ll end this letter with a positive — now more than ever culture is needed in everyone lives. We the public want to enjoy culture in our lives. With a few conversations with ALL employees (and I mean all including cleaning, security and all the other people who always get overlooked) you can find the solution that will work best for everyone.
Then share, because collaboration and sharing are going to be the key for the sector to survive.
Originally published at www.mardixon.com.