Sunday, January 6, 2019

Aim Higher. Work Faster. Make Museums Better.

One of my new sheroes is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the recently elected congressperson from New York.

Representative Ocasio-Cortez wants to aim higher and work faster to solve problems for her constituents.

With that spirit in mind, here are three areas of museum work that I think we can all make better by aiming higher and working faster.

It is unconscionable that museums do not pay all their employees and interns living wages.  I've heard all the excuses for low museum pay, and they all sound like bunk.  Unpaid internships and substandard wages are not the way to run any organization, let alone organizations that claim to have a higher social purpose.

One step to address this challenge: Stop "salary masking"! Commit to transparency by requiring salary ranges in all job postings.  Kudos to professional organizations like ACM, AASLH, and MAAM for being leaders in this effort.

Does the staff, board, and programming of your museum truly reflect the communities your institution wants to serve? If not, why not?

One step to address this challenge: Start conversations with communities IN those communities, not your museum! Attend community events as a participant, not an "expert."  True engagement is an ongoing process, not a one-time focus group meeting -- and that process might begin with a simple and sincere Facebook or email message.

Museums seem more willing to pay (or overpay) for screen-based opportunities over staff-facilitated activities, even though many studies show that visitors to cultural institutions often prefer non-screen based experiences.

One step to address this challenge: consider WHAT you want visitors to take away from an experience before immediately jumping to HOW you will deliver that experience. You may find an elegant non-screen based solution or a great "phygital" (mixed physical and digital) opportunity to explore.

I hope you aim higher and work faster to face whatever museum challenges you encounter in 2019!

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