I Love My Field, But Sometimes it Makes Me Sad

I really do love the museum field.  Which is why I criticize it when it’s not doing things well–I want it to be the best it can be, to make me proud to be a part of this profession.

But it really says something about the state of the museum field that the Awesome Historic House (yes, I’m still working there on weekends, and probably will be until the end of time…I like it too much, and hey, the extra money is definitely a plus!) is hiring for one of its three main permanent museum staff positions–but this particular position?  Not full time, so with no benefits, and very low paying (even for the museum field).  And yet there are people with masters degrees in the field lining up to apply (I personally know 3 who have applied, and they have said that they know of at least a dozen others from their grad programs)

This is pitiful!  People with masters degrees are fighting tooth and nail for a job that is not even full time!

This ties in to a discussion that I had with one of our volunteers at the Awesome Historic House a few weeks back, where we were agreeing that there definitely seems to be a dissonance in the museum field as it attempts to shift away from being a field of little old ladies and bored housewives who need something to do while their husbands are at work supporting the family, and become something more professional.  These days, in the museum field you’re often expected to have a masters degree and tons of professional experience, and yet institutions are not willing/able to pay employees enough to support themselves.  The qualifications that we have, and that we are expected to have, are those of professionals, and yet museums still expect to pay us like we’re retirees or housewives who just need something to do but have another source of support so their job doesn’t actually have to pay the bills.

And on a related note, before anyone pulls out the trite “Well, you should have known going in to that field that you’d never get rich!”  THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GETTING RICH, AND SIMPLY BEING ABLE TO PAY RENT!  I have no interest in getting rich in the museum field–I’m well aware that that will never happen.  I just ask that I be paid a wage that reflects my qualifications (hello, masters degree and several years of museum experience at all sorts of museums!), and that is enough to cover my (very simple) expenses!

But apparently that’s too much to ask, and when you ask for that in this field, you’re treated like you’re being an unreasonable, ungrateful ass.


I love this field, but it really makes me sad sometimes.


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