Fair Museum Jobs: Mission Statement
Fair Museum Jobs is a grassroots, collective movement. Our objective is to establish a better standard (“The Manifesto”) for museum job recruitment that is based on the principles of fairness, transparency, equity and inclusivity. We believe recruitment based on these principles is fundamental to creating a museum sector that is resilient, relevant and representative of all society.
Fair Museum Jobs will take collective action to urge employers to improve their recruitment practices when they fall short of the established standard. We will also celebrate best practice, and champion examples as models for emulation.
Our focus will be on the museums, heritage, cultural and allied sectors. However, we welcome interest and support from all quarters. Our movement is, like we aspire our sector workforce to be, open to everyone.
Our team is currently made up of:
We thought it was about time we introduced ourselves, let it be known though that our opinions here are our own and in no way reflect the views of our employers.
So grab a drink, make a brew and read about our reasons and routes into museum activism.
Who are we?
I’m Tom and I work at the RAF Museum, where I’m the Curator of Aircraft. My first job in the sector was an HLF-funded traineeship at Worcester Cathedral Library. After this I held (precariously) several part-time and fixed-term positions across a range of museums, before settling into my current role. I have also worked for both Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. I like the pub, vintage sci-fi and Neil Young. I hate musicals and apples (the fruit).
I’m Louise and I work at the British Film Institute making sure the collections database keeps working! I am a trained Mental Health First Aider, and really interested in making sure we support good mental health in the workplace. I’ve worked at various museums from indie to national, and in all kinds of roles: front of house, curator, events, learning, finance, documentation. My longest job though was my first: working in a music shop! My favourite things are quizzes, Love Island and musicals. I strongly dislike being cold and wearing heels.
My name’s Lucy and I work at Leeds Museums & Galleries. I recently led our WW1 Programme, which reached almost 2.9 million people. My first job ever was in a chip shop, and my first museum job was selling National Trust membership. I’ve also worked as a butcher, a care assistant, selling posh soap and in telesales. All these jobs provided fantastic skills and experience and I am big fan of transferable skills! I’m studying for a PhD in ninth century money at the University of York. I love editing Wikipedia and digging my allotment; I hate brushing my hair.
My name is Catriona and I am Head of the Petrie Museum at UCL. The job that always stands out for me is my weekend front of house role at Bede’s World. I think every museum professional should have experience of being the person on the front desk who has to field all the complaints yet (usually) has none of the power to change anything. I am a member of the Society for Museum Archaeology committee, Associate Member of the Museums Association, and trustee to the British Games Institute, which runs the National Videogame Museum. I like hanging out with my kind and hilarious little boy, or losing myself in a videogame when time allows. I hate fake people.
I’m Ashleigh and I work for a research charity called The Audience Agency on audience development and evaluation projects, especially those involving young people in museums and arts settings. I also do some writing for web and print. Before my current role, I worked in museum education in the UK and abroad for 10 years. One of my first jobs was reception and admin for an actors union, which impressed upon me the power of workers organising collectively to protect each other against exploitation. My first museum role was working the front desk and gift shop at a shoe museum in Canada. I love hanging out with my family, playing video games, yoga, and travelling. I hate shopping, bananas, and country music.
Why did you want to get involved with FMJ?
Louise: I wanted to get involved with FMJ so I could stop feeling like I was shouting in to the void about problems in the sector. I had seen amazing colleagues without degrees not get jobs, been so badly paid I couldn’t afford to travel to work, been on precarious zero hour contracts and things didn’t seem to be improving, so I wanted to get involved in making that change.
Tom: There were so many frustrating things I found in museum recruitment, both when I was trying to break into the sector and stay afloat in it. It was knowing that I wasn’t alone, and that together we could press for change, that made we want to get involved with FMJ.
Catriona: I have supervised many early career professionals either volunteering or on short term contracts, and seen so many people suffer when up against unfair recruitment systems or requirements, Tom being one of them! It made me feel helpless, and frustrated that I couldn’t do more to help. I had to say yes to FMJ because I believe in the cause and because it’s important to do something about unfairness, whenever you can.
Ashleigh: There are many great networking and support groups across the museum world, but I noticed a distinct lack of anything specifically focused around museum workers rights and recruitment practices. Given that precarious work, low pay, lack of diversity, and employee burnout are widespread problems, FMJ is filling a critical gap in supporting and improving the sector for all workers.
Lucy: I wanted to get involved with FMJ, because the current system is really unfair and it’s gates are kept by people who refuse to change. By working collectively we can try and open doors and create a better sector.
Worst recruitment experience?
Lucy: I had an interview one time, where one of the panel members turned their back on the table and starting picking their nails whilst sighing. It made me feel really demoralised and useless. A smile doesn’t cost anything!
Catriona: Not my own, but I’ve never forgotten an interview panel when another panel member tried to turn down a candidate because he felt her accent ‘wasn’t professional enough to be taken seriously’.
Tom: Either a job specification with about 30 points on it but a limit to the covering letter of about 300 words, or the time I got completely ghosted after attending an interview.
Louise: Either the 6 hour long interview event, or the organisation that didn’t give me feedback until I threatened a data protection request for my own records.
Ashleigh: Too many to count, but it has to be the time I got interviewed by surprise. A former boss invited me to an internal ‘catch-up meeting’, and then told me it was a job interview for a new position once I stepped into the room.
If you could change one thing about the sector?
Catriona: Institutional racism. Credentialism and obsession with museum studies MAs. Over-reliance on capitalist models of funding/operation. The patriarchy. I can’t pick one; can we just fix it all?
Ashleigh: I want to see more widespread trade unionism across the sector, as this would go a long way to improving precarious work, low pay, and exploitative working conditions. Many are afraid to speak out about bad behaviour and practices because they have no one to back them up and are worried about losing their jobs if they don’t take it on the chin. The result is that many in leadership positions don’t get the full picture, and bad employers can continue to act with impunity.
Louise: I would ask that senior people stop replying on “how it’s always been”, and start thinking about how it needs to be. That they break down their prejudices and examine why they believe what they do about workplace competency. To me this seems the first step towards lasting change.
Lucy: I think the sector would really benefit from people feeling confident to fairly and sensitively call each other out, and be called out. No one is perfect, but scenarios can be avoided if we are able to speak up and be valued for doing so, even if it goes against the status quo.
Tom: I would like to see museums embrace meaningful change about the way in which they recruit, rather than perpetuating the same old exclusionary and blinkered practices. For too long hiring managers have been recruiting in their own image, and this has to stop if the museum sector is to remain relevant and sustainable.