American study shows that museum workers struggle

© Ângela Macário / Alamy Stock Foto Six people walk behind each other over a bridge.

© Ângela Macário / Alamy Stock Foto

The report “Workplace Equity and Organizational Culture in U.S. Art Museums” by Museums Moving Forward paints a bleak picture of working conditions and staff wellbeing in the American museum sector.

The report shows that 68% of art museum workers have considered leaving the field, 74% cannot always cover basic living expenses, and it takes an average of 12 years before a worker receives a promotion.

Employment turnover is high—art museums lost 30% of full-time employees hired between 2020 and 2022—and rates were especially elevated among those making less than $50,000 a year.

“Simply put, it is not enough to diversify the artists we are collecting or exhibiting; we must take better care of our people too,” the report’s authors write in the executive summary. “Ongoing union negotiations and social media outcries have made clear that the needs of workers are not being met. And, of course, the pandemic made a challenging situation even more dire, as the inequities have become ever more impossible to ignore.”

Museums Moving Forward (MMF) surveyed 1,933 staff members from more than 54 institutions. MMF is an advocacy group for equity in the museum sector that functions as a qualitative look at equity and workplace culture in museums, large and small, across the United States.