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All Hands on Deck: maintaining a museum workforce

Motto If a country can't save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say: Let the damned thing go down the drain! (Robert Heinlein)

This is one section of a report from the Center for the Future of Museums. See Museums and Society 2019 for the executive summary and links to the other sections.

The Challenge:Edit

Museum staffs are stretched thin—particularly due to a shortage of volunteer leadership, as many baby boomers have put off retirement and taken second jobs to shore up failing finances. At the same time, many museum leadership positions go unfilled, as directors from the boomer generation retire but hiring freezes due to budget deficits remain in place. Many museums are no longer able to offer the basic benefits that made nonprofit job salaries acceptable, as health insurance becomes expensive, or unobtainable, due to the ReDS epidemic.

Help us face this challenge! Add your solutions to the following questions, and pose new questions.

How can museums motivate a new generation of volunteers—what opportunities can we provide that meets a need in their lives?Edit

How can museums create a viable work environment, in the absence of traditional incentives such as health insurance?Edit

Several museums could band together to offer a single position for a circuit-riding curator or collections care specialist. I met a museum professional who did this in England in 1992. His title was peripatetic curator, and he served four or five museums, spending a few days at each one before traveling on. This sort of position would be fairly easy to do in the UK where they have national health insurance and the museums are closer together--working out the benefits for such a position would be trickier in the US.

How can museums attract and retain talented staff when, in many parts of the country, starting salaries in museums are barely enough to cover living expenses?Edit

How do museum professionals access professional training when travel is so dang expensive (and inconvenient) and on-line delivery mechanisms are frequently disrupted?Edit

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