The American Alliance of Museums has published a new survey on the impact of the pandemic on cultural workers, illustrating the devastating effect the crisis has had on the sector.
According to the report, a fifth of museum workers and students surveyed don’t expect to remain in the field three years from now. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed cited burnout, while 59 percent said low pay will cause them to change careers.
In another striking figure, about a quarter of museum employees surveyed were out of work last year, with five percent still unemployed. Over 40 percent of respondents lost income during the pandemic. On average, these respondents made 30 percent of their normal salaries. The strain was especially severe for independent consultants and contractors, with more than half having had contracts canceled or indefinitely postponed.
The report also revealed how race and gender affect how workers experienced the health crisis. BIPOC respondents, who represented about 20 percent of those surveyed, reported greater financial strain and fewer financial resources than white respondents. Women were more likely than men to report increased workload and strain on their wellbeing.
The AAM’s report is based on data collected last month from 2,666 responses, a fraction of the 726,000 museum jobs in the museum sector pre-pandemic. In its report, the industry group said that the figures may not represent the actual number of employees impacted by the pandemic, as the survey more easily reached current employees than those who have been laid off, as well as those in upper- and middle-management positions.
“Since the pandemic began, the Alliance has successfully advocated for billions of dollars of Federal relief funding which has sustained thousands of museum jobs,” Laura Lott, president and CEO of AAM, said in a statement. “As we recover and rebuild, we must focus on equity, empathetic leadership, and actions that support the people who make museums possible. The resiliency and future vitality of our field relies on them.”