Believe it not or not; museum work is hard. Don't get me wrong, it's not as stressful as some jobs, but with any profession requiring manual labor, years of experience, and certain education levels, a little stress follows. But for some reason, there is this notion that Museum professionals are free from hard work and that it's effortless to get a job in this sector. Over the years, these are a few questions and statements that repeatedly come up in conversation. I can understand the thinking behind some of these questions, but it’s not like the movies, and I’m here to debunk a few museum myths.
1. Why do you need a degree for that? It sounds easy.
This question hurts more than anything. Would you trust anyone to keep history relics safe? The work I do is very specialized. If it were so easy, those of us in this field would not be willing to take on so much debt by obtaining a higher level degree. Years of experience is valued in this field as well. However, I was not considered for positions until I started working on my Masters.
2. Why are you tired, you get to sit all day?
Oh goodness, I really hate this statement. I know hate is a very harsh word, but that's how I'm feeling at this moment. No, I don't get to sit all day. Trust me; I get all 10,000 steps in a workday. Between the ladders, the stairs inside collection storage, and the ripping and running when it's time to install/deinstall an exhibit, I'm up on my feet in my comfy sneakers. Museum professionals are actually pretty fit. Also, database work uses a lot of critical and analytical brain power.
3. Only boring people work in museums?
Boy-Oh-Boy, folks who make this statement have never heard how lit museum professionals events and happy hours are. We turn up! We're far from boring.
4. Hey, look at me!
Ok, this one isn't necessarily a question, but more so an action. So, sometimes I'll receive a picture of someone standing extremely close to an artifact as a joke.
This is not funny to museum professionals. We are silently freaking out because we understand that accidents happen. You think that you are being safe and cautious, but we KNOW that a gush of wind can come out of nowhere and push you directly into the artifact. Yes, that sentence was dramatic, and you may be asking does she care more about the objects than people?........Of course not. I just LOVE the artifacts...and you!
5. That sounds like a safe job.
I'm not sure if folks mean Museum jobs are financially safe or physically safe when they make this statement. Either way, the statement is false. Many museum positions are grant-funded/contract. If you want to advance in your career and finances, you will most likely need to take on a leadership role. The average museum professional is not rolling in the money. Also, museum work is not always physically safe. You can actually die from museum work. Certain objects can be hazardous, and some storage areas are extremely tight. So, if you squeeze or bend the wrong way, you can literally break a bone. I'm a little dramatic again, but you get my point. I've walked away with more bruises working in a museum more than I did as the Tomboy child I was.
Museum work is rewarding, but it can be also be mentally and physically exhausting. Museum professionals do not have it easy just because we work in a museum.