Labor in the Museum Field

The arguments raised in Amy Tyson’s The Wages of History made me think about the current discourse amongst museum professionals about leaving the museum field, mostly due to issues surrounding labor. I wanted to highlight a couple of really thoughtful and recent pieces about this issue…

It’s Brave to Quit the Museum Field: Part One

Leaving the Museum Field

In her epilogue, Tyson gives a few recommendations for how leaders at organizations like the Fort Snelling History Center can support their “public history proletariats.” I think her most powerful recommendation is to treat “frontline workers like they are truly an organization’s most valuable asset.” (176) Solicit feedback from them. Let them express their opinions without fear of retaliation. Value your frontline staff! I appreciated Tyson’s recommendations, especially since I do want to be in a leadership position one day.

To bring in a more personal note, the issue of labor in the museum sector and the way it is devalued is deeply infuriating to me, and I think it is critically important for us as future leaders to think about the ways we can break this cycle. I’m sure all of us who have worked in the cultural sector have experienced this: many of us have worked an unpaid internship or held a job in the culture sector where we were severely underpaid. I hope to brainstorm some ways we can break this cycle!!

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