Underappreciation and Over Expectations: Modern Art, Ancient Wages

The next time you visit a museum, gallery, archive, or accredited aquarium, please consider all of the people who LOVE their jobs and do not get fairly compensated. If you can, please pay admission, add to a donation box, or purchase a membership to express your appreciation for the work that educators, curators, researchers, designers, administrators, maintenance workers, builders, volunteers, and others do to make a museum a wonderful place to visit.

Museums are a part of our culture and heritage, and encourage learning as a part of our every day life. We need to show our support by going to museums and galleries and telling museums and galleries what we want as a society (so that it is inclusive and enjoyable for everyone).

No one gets into museum work expecting to make a fortune, but everyone should expect to be able to make ends meet, especially when said museum is not zeroing out each year. The MoMA protest explains this to a tee.

Read a summary of the June 2 MoMA protest here.

The museum has been in negotiations with Local 2110, which represents more than 200 MoMA employees, since early May. There have already been four negotiation sessions, with a fifth due to take place Wednesday morning. Though the workers’ contract, last renegotiated in 2010 without complications, expired on May 20, the museum and union agreed to extend it by 30 days, through June 20. MoMA’s Local 2110 members have not had to strike since 2000, when the main bargaining chips included healthcare coverage, salaries, and threats of layoffs. Now, as the museum prepares for another expansion and its assets and endowment continue to grow — according to the institution’s financial statements for fiscal year 2014, its endowment and investments were worth $838.9 million in June 2014, up from $706.3 million a year earlier — it is demanding workers pay more for healthcare coverage.

I am very fortunate to have landed where I have, where we have a union that fights for us, but we are generally under-funded and expected to make sacrifices that other workplaces would find unreasonable. We make miracles with shoe string budges and high expectations, and most other museums make those same miracles with even less.

The passion for preserving the past and sending it into the future is so overwhelming that it blinds us to the needs of our staff as people.

Again, I am very fortunate, and I hope that we can all recognize if this is the case and fight for those who are out of options. Please continue to support museums, galleries, and other cultural institutions, allowing the physical museums to live and grow, along with the people supporting their walls.