A Front-of-House Charter for Change
The Museums Association is working with Front of House in Museums (FoHMuseums) to co-create a Charter for Change specifically for front-of-house workers (FoH).
The past year has shown how vital FoH are to the museum sector, but also exposed the challenges and vulnerability of those workers. Their experiences have varied across the sector and throughout the last 11 months.
Fundamental museum work
During the periods of museum closure, many continued working to keep museums and collections safe and ensure essential maintenance took place. Many adapted to working from home or were redeployed in the fight against Covid-19, providing essential services across the country. The introduction of the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme saw many FoH workers furloughed. For many, the closure of museums meant the loss of a portion of their salary or, sadly, redundancy.
The Charter for Change is an opportunity to embed change for FoH workers in the sector’s recovery as we reopen and rebuild in 2021. This is an opportunity to set the direction for improving workplace relationships with front-of-house workers.
The experiences of FoH workers as museums emerged from the first lockdown continued to show how important they are in the midst of the greatest challenges and vulnerability they have ever faced. Many returned to work to find themselves fundamental to the reopening of museums across the country, implementing new guidance and regulations to create Covid-safe environments while creating a safe and engaging visitor experience.
However, this has not been the case for all FoH. A year later, many remain on furlough. Others have seen their hours cut and many have lost their jobs. The experiences of FoH have varied dramatically. Their importance has been fully demonstrated, but equally has their vulnerability to the economics of museums and the increased pressure to generate income and tighten budgets.
A Need for Change?
Research by FoHMuseums in 2019 revealed that 58% of FoH feel they are not valued by the sector, 63% felt they could not impact their museum’s practices and 52% could not see a future in the museum sector. This research and the experiences of FoH across 2020 are the inspiration for the Charter for Change. There is undoubtedly a need for change; a need to promote and amplify the many voices of FoH and give them the recognition they deserve, to enable a better sector that listens and values its workers. Change can start here.
Our research as a network has consistently shown that FoH are more likely to feel undervalued and have less impact on the sector, this needs to change. Covid-19 has highlighted that the sector deeply depends on FoH.
A Charter for Change
The creation of a Charter for Change will be an opportunity to champion the values of FoH workers, an opportunity for conversation, an opportunity to build a vision. It will enable the sector to embed change in its relationship with FoH into the post-pandemic recovery.
The charter will seek to explore and disseminate best practice for FoH inclusion in the wider sector, raise the profile, empower and provide a voice for FoH as a career and specialism in its own right. The creation of this charter aims to improve the experience of working in FoH, highlight the value and contribution of FoH workers to the museum sector, and contribute to changing the sector for the better.
We envision that the content of the charter will be defined by those it is for: FoH workers who know and understand the value and importance of their work, and the expertise required for FoH roles.
Tamsin Russell, MA workforce development officer, says: “To be truly successful as a sector we need to understand and respect every discipline within it.
“FoH professionals are the first touchpoint for our visitors, they see first-hand their needs and wants. This insight is gold and just one example of why we need to include FoH staff in discussions about museums. We are committed to supporting inclusion and representation for all workers within the sector and I am looking forward to working with FoHMuseums.”
This is the start of the Front-of-House Charter for Change. More to come shortly – follow #FoHCharterforChange.