I’d guess that when most people think about an art museum, paintings or objects on display come to mind. That’s certainly true for me, but then, for nearly half of my forty-year career, I was employed looking after musical instruments and working with lots of curators and art conservators at the MFA, Boston. As true as it is that museums hold grand collections in trust for the public, the vital force that enlivens all museums is the people associated with them. The lifeblood of today’s museums is the many dedicated and passionate people, whether they be curators or educators, volunteers or paid employees, security monitors or financial wizards, art handlers or communications specialists and many others. Without these devoted, delightful, and sometimes enigmatic people tending to our cultural heritage, the material manifestation of human creation, museums would be merely neglected treasure stockpiles or airy warehouses.
It has been a great privilege to have worked with many of these fascinating souls who, like me, were drawn to a lifetime of caring for and sharing art objects with an ever-increasing audience. Working with this wild and wacky bunch has been inspiring and hugely rewarding for the mind and spirit. The tangible compensation for most of these dedicated people, however, is woefully inadequate. Frequent comparisons between a calling to the ministry and to museum work may not be altogether inappropriate. Nevertheless, job satisfaction is pretty high despite the slim wages, and most have managed – in normal times.
These are hardly normal times, unfortunately. The open-ended crisis period we now find ourselves confronting is unprecedented and downright frightening. Millions of our fellow citizens in every walk of life are suffering throughout the land. Deserving people in untold numbers are suddenly in dire need of financial assistance. This is especially so for those in not-for-profit endeavors who have been focused on providing social services, spiritual comfort, educational and cultural enrichment, and many, many other such careers, and yes, that includes museum workers.
We all are going to need help. Everyone reading this, in my humble opinion, ought to be thinking about offering substantive financial help to those working – or who, through no fault of their own, are no longer working – in organizations that do great things, organizations that matter to you. I hope you will come to the aid of any number of these organizations, as each and every one of them is equally in need right now. And if the Lyman Allyn is one of those organizations doing work that you especially want to see continue, please take this opportunity right now to show your concern for and appreciation of the dedicated people working to carry the Museum forward into the future. Your generous support will help us retain our remarkable staff through this time of scarcity.
I’ll share some more of these thoughts soon.
Until then, stay safe and healthy,