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‘It’s Helpful to Know All Scales’: Online Spreadsheet Discloses Museum Workers’ Salaries

The “Art/Museum Salary Transparency 2019” document.

In another sign of increasing demand for transparency at art institutions across the world, museum workers have begun making public their salary rates via a Google Spreadsheet document that began circulating on Friday morning. Titled “Art/Museum Salary Transparency 2019,” the document allows users to add information about the terms of their employment and their rates of pay at some of the biggest museums in the world. (New entries can be added via a separate form.)

Current and former workers who claim to have been employed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Harvard Art Museums, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art have so far disclosed their salary rates. Each is posted anonymously, and includes information about the employee’s start date, end date, and contract.

Michelle Millar Fisher, an assistant curator in the European decorative arts and design department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said she helped start the document with help from colleagues she declined to name. Reached by ARTnews, Fisher said of the document, “I made it in three minutes in the car.”

Fisher said she and her colleagues had been inspired to discuss their salaries after hearing Kimberly Drew describe how much she was paid when she held positions at the Met, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and other institutions, and that their survey comes in advance of a similar one to be conducted by POWarts later this year. “I disclosed [my salary] to my colleagues who are of different salary levels, in different institutions,” Fisher said. “In disclosing it, they said it was a really useful thing to share.”

While many who have thus far shared their salaries on the Google Spreadsheet claim to have been curators, Fisher said she hopes that people in other departments—including guards and security workers—will be inspired to follow suit. “It’s helpful to know all scales,” she added.

Fisher, who recently wrote an essay about parenting and working in the art world, said her fellow museum workers have typically been sheepish about sharing their salaries for fear of retribution. But she said she believes making such information accessible can enable museum workers to band together.

“I hope it encourages a conversation between coworkers,” she said. “If you don’t do it, everything stays the same. Sometimes it takes just one tiny action. Solidarity is the only way to effect great change.”

Update 6/3/19, 9:10 a.m.: Information about a new process for creating entries on the Google Spreadsheet has been added to the post.

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