A week or two ago I had the pleasure of hosting Museum Hour, a UK-based weekly Twitter chat for museums workers, GLAMR types and other interested parties. As a former museum professional I find these chats really informative, sometimes joining in or else just lurking. The topic I chose to discuss was why people in the sector might choose to leave it.
This is a topic I have a lot of feels about. Museums were my passion and I wanted them to be my career. But although I loved my jobs and worked with amazing collections and people I was disillusioned by museums. I was fortunate have a number of great roles in respected institutions, but the lack of opportunity for career progression, office politics and the growing sense that there was so much more that museums could be doing got to me and I drifted out of the sector.
But part of me still wishes that things had been different, and I wanted to know if other people in the sector felt the same way or had similar experiences to me. Hosting Museum Hour seemed an excellent way to find out. Lots of people had a lot of thoughts - it was really hard to keep up with everything that was being said!
So - what did the chat reveal? There are many reasons that people leave, or think about leaving, the sector: the difficulty of getting a job or a foot in the door, the realities of the museum job hunt not being made clear to Museum Studies students, short-term contracts, pay, mental health, or using a museum job as a step to another career. The tension between passion for the sector and the realities of the job market and cost of living was also evident.
However, a lot of people do come back to the sector after leaving, and people from other sectors move to museums. And people love the museum worker professional network.
Museum work also gives people many valuable transferrable skills, such as project management, customer service, event management, public speaking, facility management, and general multitasking. These are all such great skills - does the sector need to advocate further about what museum roles entail?
Museums are part of the GLAMR sector and there seems to be enthusiasm for strengthening this wider sector and promoting learning and knowledge sharing between museums, libraries, archives, galleries - and the leisure industry and the third sector.
So yes, people do leave the sector, there are major issues, but there are many, many passionate, enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable museum workers out there who want to do their best for museums and ensure they are great and relevant twenty-first century institutions.
The museum sector is in safe hands.