Marieke Van Damme is Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Society and one of the voices on the podcast Museum People. She also runs Joyful Museums, a website and project committed to “inspiring positive workplace culture.”
As museum workers and students, we all know the positives of working in museums – jobs that we are passionate about, organizations that make a positive difference in the world, always having interesting stories at parties, etc.
But we also know the common downsides of working at many museums – too much work, low salaries, an underfunded organization that leads to fewer resources and low job security, etc…
It is not uncommon for people to leave the museum field because they need better work/life balance, job security, and/or financial security than their museum can provide. For those who stay in the field, these stressors can have a negative impact on workplace culture, personal lives, and employee engagement – impacting productivity and success.
Enter Joyful Museums. This project sets out to explore the state of employee engagement within museums, start conversations on workplace culture, and provide resources and data to help museums improve and utilize their employees’ joy.
In Marieke Van Damme’s words, museums are doing great work for their communities, but,
Still, each year, museums across the globe experience funding cuts. We talk about how this is an issue, but we don’t talk about what it means to be a worker in museums under these circumstances.
What about them? How are we ensuring our museum employees come to work each morning energized, engaged, and ready to take on their ever-growing list of tasks with shrinking funds?
I believe that keeping its workers happy should be the top priority of every museum.
Engaged museum workers will have a deeper commitment to the mission of a museum than a disengaged one, and they will strive for a higher quality product (exhibition, program, publication, etc.) for the public. Building off of the growing academic field of positive psychology, I intend to explore what being happy at work means, why it is important for the museum community, and how it can be accomplished.
How engaged are your employees and coworkers? How engaged are you? Check out Joyful Museums for statistics, conversations, and resources on being a happier worker and building a more engaged workforce. We have a lot to lose by ignoring these conversations, and a lot to gain from having them.