Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Talking about Money – confronting a taboo

Fellow Museos --

The time has come to talk about money in a concrete way. The united museos in France and Canada understand the importance of fighting for fair wages (among other things).

I did a little digging on GuideStar.org after reading this great post at the Center for the Future of Museums. Basically, the mention of museums and finances led me to check out some 990 forms on Guide Star (requires free registration).

Let me just give everyone a quick summary of my findings. Keep in mind, this information is all free and available to the public, because museums are nonprofits.

I used NYC as an example of a large city with many large, famous museums.The spread will obviously look a bit different in other cities. (NB: these numbers are what they earned in 2007, taken from the 2008 990 forms which are the most recent available. These numbers came out before the economy tanked!)

The Director/President/head honcho salary at the following museums*:

Art: MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) - $2,111,000

Science: AMNH (American Museum of Natural History) - $732,000

History: MCNY (Museum of the City of New York) - $259,000

Wow. Check out the discrepancy between different types of museums. Granted, I am sure that if we mapped out visitor numbers, we would see the popularity of the museum is directly proportional to the amount the head honcho makes. And, of course, that makes sense. Analysis of the way people value different types of museums is a post for another day!

But, does looking at these figures make you want to SCREAM, readers? Does anyone feel surprised to know that a museum director in NYC can pull down $2 mil a year? Does that make you look at your own salary and make you question yourself? Some people might look at these figures and see a hope that one day they too could make millions doing what they love. Others wonder how many years it takes to get to the top. Clearly these positions are hard won, but there are real considerations: how many years can you viably spend working for a low salary in a major city center? How long can you support yourself? Your family? And then the fact remains that most people working in museums will never be directors, especially not directors of world renowned institutions. How can we make judgments about where to work and what we are worth if we only know these top salaries?

Here at Museos Unite, we want to gather some real, concrete data about salaries. If you have 30 seconds, please take this survey for us. It is completely anonymous. We ask you to tell us where your salary falls in a range, and where you are and what type of thing you do. We’d like to then take this data and compare it to what the head honchos are making, as well as what the museum is making a year.

“But there are websites like payscale.com and salary.com, Museos Unite,” you say. Oh, we are well aware. But the current numbers that are out there are derived from whatever people input into these big information engines, and it isn't always representative because it's subjective. It doesn't give an accurate picture of what real people are earning in a real market. For example, inputting Kirsten's salary into salary.com indicates that she's earning a salary in the bottom quartile for all museum educators in her area with her level of education and experience. Inputting the same information into payscale.com shows her to be a top earner. Entry level museos who are looking for an accurate idea of what they can make in today's market are not likely to find much usable information out on the internet.

Having concrete numbers gives us power, friends. I am sure you’d love to know if your salary is fair vs. your contemporaries in the field, but you don’t want to start a very private conversation with an acquaintance at a conference.

Well, here is your golden opportunity


*Note: This article highlights that a third of art museum directors have taken paycuts, including MOMA’s Glenn Lowry. He now makes a bit over $1 million, and is still the industry’s top earner.

Another note: There is also a great post from May 2008 at Young Museum Professionals with fabulous comments on the subject.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Victory in Canada, Changes in France

A big congratulations to the workers at Ottawa's Museum of Civilization and War! Striking workers have reached a tentative agreement with museum management, one they say helps protect them from contracting out and helps ensure better job security. This is a hard won victory that comes at the end of 85 days on the picket lines. We wish them all the best; they deserve every gain they've won.

The civil service workers' strike that shut many French museums continues, but press coverage and tourist reactions were so unfavorable that strikers have changed their tactics. Instead of barring access, strikers are preventing tourists from paying for admission. This will hopefully quiet disgruntled tourists and a foreign press that seems unable to focus on anything except spoiled vacations, while still making an economic impact.

Kat and I have both found the coverage of the French strikes incredibly disheartening. Granted, neither of us speaks French so most of the articles we have access to are in the travel section of English language newspapers. These have been exclusively of the "Poor Mr. Wu from Ohio, he saved his pennies for a nice Paris vacation and now he can't even see the Mona Lisa! What a waste!" variety. The idea that the reason for the strike (the halving of the civil service workforce) was a legitimate one has rarely been mentioned. The job that museos do has been repeatedly equated with the tourism industry. While there is no doubt that many museum visitors are in fact tourists, museos do more than just point tourists (or other visitors!) towards the restrooms or operate attractions to keep them entertained. This is a genuine profession that requires a high level of education and skill. Objects need to be preserved. Research needs to be performed. History needs to be told. A halved workforce will only do this half as well, and future generations deserve better. The strike should be equated with the preservation of jobs and thus the preservation of human history. If Mr. Wu from Ohio needs to spend more of his Paris vacation sipping coffee at a cafe and less time crowding in front of the Mona Lisa for that to happen, then so be it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Penny the Beaver" talks about STRIKES

I must give mad props to this woman for this video.
Way to point out how little concern government gives to museum workers vs.
transportation workers. Surely this says a lot about how
people value museums!

Video is from Museum Workers Website but also linked to in MuseumWorkers@Twitter.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Museos on Strike at 1/5th of France's Museums

The strike at the Museum of Civilization and War in Ottowa has continued for 75 days. Workers would like to bring in a neutral third party to negotiate a settlement, but the museum's management has refused. If you live in Canada or are a Canadian citizen living abroad you can sign a petition to the the museum's CEO Victor Rabinovitch urging him to reconsider.

Museum workers across the Atlantic have also taken to the picket lines. Approximately one-fifth of French museums are currently closed do to strike action. These include popular tourist destinations like the Musee d'Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Chateau de Versailles, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Georges Pompidou Center. Workers are striking over a plan to replace only half of the retiring museum workforce over the coming years. The plan is to reduce the overall number of civil servants and does not merely affect museum workers, but cuts in the cultural sector could have dramatic consequences. These will alter the quality of what the museums can offer and how well they can preserve their collections, but culture minister Frederic Mitterrand seems uninterested in negotiation.

English language information is mostly limited to what tourist spots are open or closed on any given day, but here are several links:

Strike Spreads in France Over Museum Staff Cuts - The New York Times

French museums closed by civil service strike - BBC

Paris Museum Strike Continues; Louvre, Versailles Close Doors - Bloomburg

France: Labor strike widens, shuts Louvre museum and Versailles
- L.A. Times