Join a union: FMJ at the Museums + Heritage Show

“I just love your work and wanted to come and meet you”

Our first FMJ visitor

This quote was very much the theme of our Fair Museum Jobs outing to the Museums & Heritage Show. The team running the show invited Fair Museum Jobs to attend, along with other sector support organizations, to make space at the show for networks working for change in the sector. Due to *life stuff* (like paid work), Team FMJ was represented by Louise McAward-White and Lucy Moore, and in possibly our most exciting news of the year … WE HAD MERCH. 

FMJ’s first merch

The stickers also came in handy to create the first ever pair of FMJ earrings! 

“Your twitter gives me life”

Anonymous visitor to our stand.

Followers will know that we’re based mostly online, through our blog, twitter, and other socials, so it felt pretty good to have flyers, stickers and a pop-up banner, that manifested our digital activism in print. We also know that although we have Museum Twitter Influence™, not everyone knows about us, and we had some great conversations that introduced our work to new friends. 

“Very truly believe in your cause and always RT your tweets.”

FMJ supporter at the show

What was even better was the number of colleagues from across the sector who came to say hello, who told us they used our manifesto and were inspired by our work. So many people, from directors, to those at the first steps of their careers, told us how they were using our resources to push for change. However, we also heard from those frustrated by their organizations and by the pace of change in the sector.

Louise and Lucy laughing at yet another organisation insisting on salary cloaking

Aside from the amazing chit chat, we also ran more guided sessions, which included a Museum Mix networking session, where fifteen people came to talk to us. We also ran some bookable CV or career advice sessions, where we met eight incredible professionals and helped them frame, or re-frame, their amazing skills for the sector.

It was sobering to hear so many people’s poor experiences in the sector: from organizations that had forced staff to become volunteers (WTF?), to people facing multiple successional redundancies, to people bullied by those who should be supporting them. It was interesting to us to hear from some who were surprised we were there, as they thought our activism might have made us unpopular.

This leads us to the top three pieces of advice we gave away:

  1. Join a union
  2. Add specific numbers to your CV – how many, how often, etc.
  3. If talking about your job makes you cry, there’s a problem with your job.

Whilst we loved our day talking to everyone, it is so vital that we all remember that Fair Museum Jobs should not have to exist. We should not work in a sector where volunteers stand at a pull-up banner, reminding their sector to treat its workers with equity and respect.

FMJ’s pull-up banner

N.B. For transparency: Louise took a day off work to come to the show; Lucy’s travel costs and time was covered by her employer Leeds Museums & Galleries; we paid for the merch from our own pockets, some using money from paid FMJ gigs.

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