Monday, November 7, 2011

The Arts & Labor Working Group

Hi all -

I've been meaning to revive this blog, albeit briefly, to tell you a bit about some of the exciting (I think) new developments unfolding with the Arts & Labor working group, which I thought might pique your interest. The group emerged out of conversations between members of the Arts and Culture working group, as well as an extended group of artists, critics, curators, receptionists, interns, art-handlers, and other art workers. (More on this in a bit; the group clearly needs some arts and culture related diversity!) This message is intended to serve as an introduction and an invitation. Please feel free to pass this on to those you know who may be interested is this discussion.

Disclaimer: While we are affiliated with Occupy Wall Street many of our ideas and plans are long range and will not be bound by the time-frame of the physical occupation of Zuccotti Park.

Arts & Labor is a working group founded in conjunction with the New
York General Assembly for #occupywallstreet. We are dedicated to exposing and rectifying economic inequalities and exploitative working conditions within the arts and culture industries through direct action and educational initiatives. By forging coalitions, fighting for fair labor practices, and re-imagining the structures we work within, Arts & Labor aims to build solidarity among art workers and achieve parity for every member of the 99%.

Here is a link to a text from six months ago written by a member of
the working group:

Here are the minutes from our last meeting:

Here is a link for the Google group started by members of Arts and

Our meetings are on Tuesdays at 7:30 at the 60 Wall Street atrium.

Our aim is to address both immediate labor concerns as well as larger issues pertaining to culture and the economy. Please don't hesitate to come to our meeting tomorrow if you'd be interested in sharing some of your experiences and helping us brainstorm ways to approach the issues raised in our statement. I'd love to see some of your there. In particular, I'd love to see some of you who are arts affiliated but who are NOT visual studio artists. Arts & Labor is a self-selecting group, meaning it has thus far attracted a very high proportion of studio artists, one or two admins, a writer, and a revolving cast of filmmakers. The arts is so much more than the visual arts, and I think it would be fruitful for the discussion to include a greater diversity of voices. If you are a performer, a writer, a tech person, an intern, an admin, a curator, a filmmaker, a television maker, a designer, a musician, a dancer, or yes, even a visual artist, I encourage you to come to our meeting tomorrow night at 60 Wall Street and/or participate in the online dialogue. Get ready for some invigorating discourse.

- Kirsten

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

“Save the Arts” Campaign

In the UK, a new campaign has kicked off to save arts funding.  The proposed cuts of 25% of arts funding have already affected some of the national museums (you may have heard about the micropalaeontology department at the NHM,) national organizations (the MLA is closing) and will be sure to affect many more organizations. 

This video that Save the Arts has released is both adorable and poignant.

We at Museos Unite encourage you to watch the video, sign the petition, and to spread the word about this important campaign using all social media outlets.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Month at the Museum to have 5 Finalists?

After Nina Simon tweeted today asking MSI when the announcement would come, I found that I, too was curious. As all good armchair detectives know, the best thing to do is to Google “Month at the Museum” and select “the latest”.

This page came up in the results:


So there are to be five finalists, not three as previously reported. (Granted, this page seems to be a place holder and could have been put up to throw people off the trail. This is ALLLLLLL speculation!)

Still no word on who the lucky few will be…Stay tuned!


UPDATE (9:30 PM): They have since taken the page down. I guess someone figured out that it wasn't supposed to be live yet!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

This is just for fun!

Small update on a more personal level. As stated before, I entered the Month at the Museum contest for MSI. Unfortunately, I did not progress to the semi-finals. Only ~15 out of ~1500 people were lucky enough to get through. But I wanted to share my video anyway, because I think it was lots of fun to make, and I hope that everyone can get some enjoyment out of it.

Does anyone know of anyone who went through to the semi-finals? What do you think that MSI was looking for in a candidate?


PS – since we at Museos Unite are very interested in the out-of-the-box, creative nature of this museum project, it will be featured here throughout its run as part of our next series about New, Unique Museum Projects.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Skills Every Museo Should Have (or Learn)

Let’s face it. Although you learn so much over the course of a museum studies master’s degree, there is still so much to learn. I am trying to compile a list of things that I learned outside of school that I think are necessary skills in today’s museum industry.

1-Social Media:
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you found us though social media networks such as twitter, or perhaps another blog that you frequent. That is awesome! Maybe you tweet for yourself/a museum/a museum consulting company/a historical society. Maybe you run your own blog. Whether you blog & tweet or just read them & follow them, you should be able to navigate social networks. Period. There is no excuse today not to have some knowledge of social networks. Museums need to keep up with technology, and therefore Museos do, too. (Here’s a guide to Twitter Basics in case you need it.)

2-Grant Writing:
Kirsten and I studied in England, which meant that our program taught us bids to city council, instead of the US equivalent of grant writing. Although there are many similarities, they are actually very specific processes. Therefore, to get my ducks in a row, I found a grant writing class at a local university and audited it. This option was very cost effective (as I didn’t need the credits) and I was able to learn everything I needed to know. Kirsten, on the other hand, learned grant writing on the job. She successfully researched and wrote several successful grants for her museum. Since you may end up being one of only a few employees at a small museum, you have to be able to do practically everything, and that involves fundraising. So...

3-Varied Computer Software:
I know there is a long list of computer software that Museos should know (please please please add any I forget into the comments!) but I would start with

  • Adobe software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. That way, you can make and print media that looks professional at your museum.
  • I also suggest basic web design (some HTML and CSS) so that you can stay involved in how your museum is portrayed online. I personally learned Dreamweaver using the free online tutorial on Adobe's website. There are so many free resources on the web to learn basic web design, and a quick look at google will help you find them. Remember: your museum may have a web team, and it may not. Better to be prepared.
  • Office suite, obviously.
  • A basic movie editing program (Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, iDVD) to make videos or slide shows of exhibits to show members or donors
  • I would add museum cataloging programs (PastPerfect) and fundraising software (Raiser’s Edge) but I am sure that these are going to be specific to the institution. If anyone has any experience with learning these before you got a job, and if that helped, we’d appreciate the feedback!

4-People Management Skills:
It may be hard to gain this experience while not on the job. You will probably have to create a project in order to find people to manage. Not like we need to do any more unpaid work, Museos, but if you create a fun project, you can find yourself managing a group on your off hours. Personally, I organize and coordinate a social group that does happy hours, and I know friends who have started other social groups that exist to help raise money for nonprofits. Many museums have young members’ groups, and you could join these and take leadership positions in planning fun events. Whichever route you take, having management skills will always help you on a resume (and on the job).

As we all know, since the word “museum” can mean anything from a small historic house to a huge international tourist destination with millions of visitors a year, a Museo’s job can be incredibly varied. Although museums are really about the interaction between visitors and objects, we cannot ignore the way technology is creeping into everything that we do. Being able to interact with people in person and online is always helpful, and knowing how to get funding to keep your museum ticking will be priceless.

So Museos, what extra skills have you developed that helped you land a job or to improve your current work? Have there been any skills you wished you had learned prior to gaining a position? How did you develop these skills?

As always, we welcome any and all comments below.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Awesomely Unique Idea: MSI’s Month at the Museum

Yesterday was the closing day for submissions to the Month at the Museum contest for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  The Museos Unite team found out about the contest right when it was announced on July 15th via the magic of Twitter (great example of well utilized social media)! 

A bit of background on the contest, in case you are not familiar.  Entrants were to submit a 60-second video, a 500-word essay, a headshot, and an entrance packet to the museum.  The prize is to live at the museum for 30 days with minimal contact with the outside world, exploring the museum and interacting with guests throughout.

As far as we know, no museum in the world has hosted a program like this one, although a few days ago we wrote about how people used to live at the National Museum of Natural History.  I am sure Museos used to live at museums all the time in the old days. As it is the FIRST EXPERIMENT OF ITS KIND (!!!) we have to applaud MSI heartily. Hooray for thinking outside the box!  Hooray for inviting a stranger to view the inner workings of the museum! Hooray for capturing the imaginations of people throughout the world!

Yesterday the museum announced via its Facebook and Twitter pages that there have been over 1,000 applications thus far. What a great response! When was the last time that a museum got that kind of attention for something that wasn’t a sponsored blockbuster exhibit?  (Really, if you know, please put it in the comments! We’d love to be able to draw some comparisons).

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this Museo (Kat) totally applied! I figured it would be a great opportunity to see firsthand just how groundbreaking projects can change the industry. It also would give me an opportunity to use all of this great museum knowledge I have racked up over the years, right?

We cannot wait to see what changes that Month at the Museum inspires across the museum industry.  Will there be spinoff projects at other institutions?  Will it create a Museo-lebrity that kids will be lining up to get autographs from? Will it make even more people rush to get Museum Studies degrees? Stay tuned to find out…

So, some questions for our readers: Did any of you put in applications? What possible changes do you think could come from this project? What do you think of the attention MSI has garnered for Month at the Museum? Any other comments?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Museos Unite!

It’s been a good year.

On August 11th of last year, Museos Unite set out to raise awareness, start discussions, and generally give voice to the concerns that people aren’t willing to talk about in museums.

We hope we were able to do some of those things.  Let’s review some of our biggest topics of discussion:

(1) Salaries – We completed the 2010 Salary Survey and published reports on the results.  With a sample of 99 fulltime museum employees, we were able to draw some conclusions, and we learned a lot about what to ask next time. We hope to make another salary survey in 2011, taking into account what we have learned.

(2) Solutions Series – We started throwing out some off-the-wall, out-of-the-box ideas about how to get more money for entry level museum salaries, or how to raise money in general.  We had the very controversial “Robin Hood Rule” and the greatly debated “offsite museum bar,” as well as contributions from a reader and from the well-known museum blogger newcurator.  We are always looking for more suggestions, and hope to hear from more readers.

(3) Unions, benefits, compensation, tipping, employee development, and dedication to work – We discussed these topics and more throughout the posts and in the comments. The debate continues…

Overall, thank you to our readers for making it a great year. Don’t give up! We can still affect great change and help Museos all over the world if we put our heads together. Let’s keep throwing ideas around and see where it leads us…

If everyone thinks outside the box all the time, then the box ceases to exist…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh, the benefits of museum work…

Museos Unite reader Ann sent me this link today about museum directors in NYC living tax-free in museum-owned apartments--really, really nice apartments. (They are either at or near the museum, and are used for entertaining as well as housing the director, which is why the whole thing works.) People (not the government) seem to think that directors living in $5 million apartments is tad on the excessive side.

What do you think?

In the past, more employees than just the directors used to live at the museum. Check out this story from the Museum of Natural History’s blog.

Pretty cool that employees used to have the option to live at the museum if they were strapped for cash. Shame that the practice does not continue.

Or does it?  More on that tomorrow…