Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Thinking about museum workplace communities

When we think about the people that comprise a museum’s community, sometimes we overlook the very core of that group: the staff. Like all non-profits and cultural organizations, museums often have a small but dedicated crew of people giving 110% toward accomplishing the museum’s mission. And they wouldn’t have it any other way, right? But besides the devoted staff, museums can also often rely on tight budgets, small headcount, and, for small museums, no formal HR department to handle the needs of the people. This can all lead to the feeling that museums are (or should be) a stressful place to work. This can be dangerous for a mission-driven workplace, leading to employee burnout.

Burnout is a bit of a buzzword these days, but with good reason: If an institution’s culture makes people feel exhausted, frustrated, and alienated from their work, people will and do leave. If an industry’s culture does it, they will leave the industry. And we know that has been happening, because people have been writing about it. And as a member of EMP groups online, I can testify that the agonizing conversation  over whether or not to leave the field is taking place all the time, all over the country. That turnover can mean that institutional knowledge is walking out the door faster than it can be replaced, making a museum even more difficult to work for because people are constantly having to reinvent the wheel to keep moving. Museums, like many non-profits and places that depend on inspiration to motivate labor, are places where a number of workplace issues can come together to drain staff of their energy, enthusiasm, and ability to build a great institution. As emerging museum professionals, we should know the signs of burnout and of work cultures that will hasten it. This way, we can try to avoid toxic workplaces and build or grow non-toxic ones as we go. The best way to do that is to think about how we like to be treated in our other communities and implement those processes in our workplaces.

In our other relationships and communities, communication and dialogue in which everyone gets to share their opinions and needs are valued. It may be useful then for museums to create venues for feedback from staff, just like they do for visitors! This can include anonymous surveys, “listening sessions,” where someone in management hosts a group of people to get their feedback, or “postmortems,” meetings after issues or events where problems are assessed and betterments for the next time are decided. Implementation and followup is key: when people share their concerns, institutions must try to figure out how to make progress toward common requests. Do people want more vacation? Can your institution create a flex time policy so people can work around school pickups, appointments, etc? Do people want more money? Can your institution arrange a salary review, comparing salaries to like institutions and see if they are at par? Take in information and communicate plans to address issues.

Let’s not underestimate how important it is to show gratitude and encourage development, either. Thank people for their work. Thank teams for their work. Recognize work publicly. Celebrate finishing a project or hitting a fundraising goal. Encourage professional development, even if it means that a staffer might eventually outgrow their position and leave. Think creatively about low or no cost ways to help your staff develop. And remember that feedback goes both ways! Does your institution do performance reviews? It is difficult to know if you are doing well or to set goals without data.

There are a number of resources and action groups people can get involved with if they want to work more directly on these issues. Joyful Museums is a blog that conducts an annual survey of museum workers and, as the title suggests, thinks about how to create better museums. Gender Equity in Museums Movement (GEMM), is an advocacy group working for equity and transparency in museums on a number of workplace issues and they offer a tipsheet about combating burnout.  The Western Museum Conference recently held a panel on workplace culture, and the thoughtful handouts are available online. Do you have more ideas for fighting burnout or creating a happy and productive museum workplace? Share them in the comments!

 

Call for Papers: Fields of Conflict Conference, Mashantucket, CT

MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT MUSEUM & RESEARCH  CENTER

AWARD CATEGORIES:
$200 for best high school student poster
$300 for best undergraduate student poster
$400 for best graduate student poster
ELIGIBILITY:
High school students and currently enrolled full or part-time undergraduate and graduate students
REQUIREMENTS:
The poster abstract is due May 1st by 5:00p.m. and the final poster must be submitted no later than September 26, 2018 at 8:00a.m. Please email your poster abstract to Ashley Bissonnette at abissonnette@pequotmuseum.org and include “FOC Student Poster” in your subject line. Poster topics must include new perspectives regarding battle field archaeology or conflict studies.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about the award, how to apply, evaluation criteria, requirements and
your research please contact Ashley Bissonnette at abissonnette@pequotmuseum.org. Students
are welcome to use research materials at the museum upon appointment. For conference details
and registration, please go to http://www.pequotmuseum.org/FieldsOfConflict.aspx

Conference:
26-30 SEPTEMBER 2018
MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT MUSEUM & RESEARCH CENTER
10TH BIENNIAL INTERNATIONAL

Historic New England to Host Conference on Preserving Affordable Housing

Historic New England presents Preserving Affordability, Affording Preservation: Prospects for Historic Multi-Family Housing on Friday, April 27, 2018, at the All Saints’ Church in Boston. The conference gathers leading advocates in affordable housing and historic preservation to look at the past, present, and future of our region’s historic multi-family housing.

Historic multi-family buildings, such as New England’s iconic three-deckers, once served as “gateway” housing, providing affordable options for renters and a path to home ownership. Can these historically affordable buildings be adapted to meet current needs? Can we preserve affordability while also preserving historic buildings, neighborhood character, and urban density?

Presentations include scholars and practitioners in urban planning, historic preservation, architecture, and politics. The conference explores how cities can approach preserving historic character while balancing sustainability, affordability, and diversity.

Join us for this conversation that brings together voices from historic preservation and affordable housing to consider historic multi-family housing and its place in our communities. See a complete list of speakers and an agenda.

Registration information

Register online or by calling 617-994-6678. The registration fee is $85 for adults and $35 for students with ID. Fees include a continental breakfast, lunch, and reception.

Winterthur Furniture Forum, April 12-14, 2018

The Sewell C. Biggs
WINTERTHUR FURNITURE FORUM
Furniture Traditions of the Early American Countryside

April 12–14, 2018

Don’t miss lectures, a craft demonstration, and workshops highlighting exciting new research on cabinetmakers in New England, the Shenandoah Valley, and the South, which will inspire greater understanding of, and appreciation for, the many cultural crosscurrents that shaped life throughout 18th- and early 19th-century rural America.

Registration now open! Call 800.448.3883 or download the Registration Form.

You may also be interested in the Furniture Forum Brochure or applying for the Furniture Forum Scholarship.

Free New England Heritage Education Summit

 Converging Paths and Common Goals

Archaeology, History, Science, Interpretation, and Education                                      

 October 13, 2017

The Archaelogical Institute of America and the Museum of Science are hosting a summit for heritage educators and those in affiliated fields at the Museum of Science in Boston.

If you are a heritage educator or in an affiliated field, we invite you to join us for a daylong summit where we will identify and highlight successful practices, provide participants with hands on experiences and practical advice, and encourage networking and collaboration among those of us who are engaged in similar efforts and share the same passion for reaching out to the public. We are looking for participants from a wide variety of backgrounds, including museums, historical societies, schools, historic parks, governmental agencies, non-profits, and living history groups to explore public outreach programs through shared and divergent lenses.

Join us for this unique professional development opportunity!

Date:     October 13, 2017

Place:    Museum of Science, 1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114

Register Now: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/new-england-heritage-education-summit-tickets-38049437893

Preliminary Schedule

8am                       Welcome and Icebreaker

8:30-9:15              Heritage Education Perspectives on Outreach Part I (panel)

9:15-10:05           Bringing the Community Together: Archaeology Fairs

10:30-11:20         Archaeology and STEM

11:20-12:30         Heritage Education Perspectives on Outreach Part II (group discussion)

12:30-1                 Future Plans and Concluding remarks

1pm                       Lunch together in cafeteria (optional)

Sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America and the Museum of Science, Boston

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