Monday, January 11, 2010

Museum Salaries: big earners make it hard for everyone else

As our salary survey moves into its 4th week live, we are very grateful to everyone who has participated, and yet honestly flummoxed as to why we only have ~65 responses so far.

Here’s a newsflash: the only salaries people outside the sector hear about are the top earners, thanks to the 990 forms and a bunch of journalists who like to post stories along the lines of “Look how much this museum director makes to play with old stuff and art all day!” *** And many people who hear about these top salaries get some strange idea in their heads that museums have endless funds and everyone makes a bundle. (Some interesting posts related to this idea are found on CultureGrrrl’s blog here, here, and here. More recently, and even more infuriatingly, here)

The only way to combat these misconceptions is to basically reveal the museum worker as underpaid, yet talented and educated. There is an element of needing public awareness and sympathy. Museos! We need to make the public aware that what we do is worth more. We need to make each other within the museum community aware that We Are Not Alone in our feelings of injustice about compensation, and that we are all experiencing the same problems.

This article (thanks to Pete of Newcurator for the heads up) discusses the idea of a lottery economy, one in which who “wins” is complete chance. This idea applies to museos because it often seems that the people who get positions and the amount of pay is all down to chance. The quote, “people don't believe that people that win in gambling deserve their fortune,” would then extend to us asking ourselves: do we, the underpaid or unable-to-find-a-job, think the people who got the job just “lucked” into it? Do we resent our fellow museos for making more? Do we resent top earners?

Or do we resent ourselves for not demanding better?

I promise, we at Museos Unite have a plan (albeit one that takes lots of help to enact, YOUR help) to try to revolutionize museum salaries. But first, we need the numbers to back us up. Share the survey!


*** We made a post here about how much Directors are making, but only to illustrate the gap between top earners and entry level/lower pay grade positions. We know that Directors work hard!

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