One of the biggest frustrations I have experienced in the museum world is the gap between front line and back of the house staff. At each institution I have worked at, whether they be large or small, old or new, aquarium or museum, for profit or mission driven, this gap has been the root of the majority of each institution’s problems.
I recently began a new position in a new organization, and this gap reared its ugly head once more. The difference between this experience and my prior encounters with this issue is that I am now working for an organization that wants to do something about it. One of my main projects over the next year will be to work on improving employee relations within the building and bridging the gap between our executives and our floor staff.
While I have not found too many articles or case studies on this subject, I was able to find a few that focus on particular aspects related to this issue. As I go through the process of crafting a remedy for this problem, I will document it here. In the meantime, check out this post from Museum 2.0 in which Nina Simon suggests working on the front line can benefit everyone in the organization, no matter their pay grade. After reading the article, I would love to have some feedback! Do you think the ideas Simon presents are viable and/or worthwhile? Would you like to see something along those lines happen at your place of work? Let me know by commenting here or by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s say you’re a person eager to break into museums. What’s the fastest, most effective way to get employed?
When I was 21 and pondering this question, I came upon an answer that worked for me: work on the front line. I figured I could pay someone a lot of money to go to graduate school, or I could pay nothing (and hopefully get paid) to learn on the job. This decision fit well with my learning style–I tend to lean towards real-world experience and self-directed endeavors. Over my first year in museums, I worked at five different institutions as an educator, exhibit builder, exhibit cleaner, art model, and whatever else I could find. I never stayed at any one institution for longer than I was learning (about 3 months on average), and I never made more than $7 an hour. But I learned enough to know what I wanted from full-time employment and how to get it.