Mildly Depressing Museum Thoughts

Only mildly depressing this time!

So, the organization I work for works with small museums, helping them do an assessment of their collections and historic buildings.  We usually work with about 100 museums each year, so I like to think we get a pretty wide variety that is fairly representative of the small museum field (we have everything from tiny local historical societies with all-volunteer staffs, to small university museums, to historic houses)

One thing I’ve really noticed in my first few months at this job is the sheer amount of staff turn-over that these small museums have!  I was just discussing this with my boss, and she said that probably close to 25% of the museums that go through our program have staff changes in the year that they’re going through.  Having been a staff of pretty much one at a tiny historic site, I can totally understand the desire to get the hell out the moment something better comes along.  But it’s also bad for the museums, because that lack of stability and institutional memory makes it hard for changes and progress to stick!  It’s hard to keep improving and moving forward if the staff is constantly turning over–you lose a few months each time that happens while the new staff person learns the ropes.

As one of the few organizations that has (I think) a really good feel for and connection to the small museum field, it would be interesting if we could track exactly how many of these museums have staff turnover–we can tell it’s “a lot”, but we don’t have solid numbers or percentages, and I think that would be very interesting, and might help bring attention to these struggling small museums.

Of course, I have no idea what the solution to this issue is.  Well, correction–I know what the solutions are(better pay, more full-time jobs and fewer part-time ones, better benefits, and larger staffs), but I don’t know how to achieve them.


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