Background and research - Museums Association

Background and research

The coronavirus pandemic created a backdrop against which many museum practices and approaches were reviewed or evolved. During the pandemic we saw many front-of-house colleagues placed on furlough as there were fewer opportunities to work from home, re-deployed to other areas of work, or facing redundancy.

In this context, building on the research undertaken by Front of House Museums (FoHM) in 2019 and the discussions explored as part of the Museums Association’s (MA) ‘Coronavirus Conversations’ programme, this research project was initiated.

The MA and FoHM came together to undertake targeted research into the treatment and experience of front-of-house colleagues. This was defined as any role where its primary purpose is to engage with visitors or communities in real life situations, including retail, hospitality and events, security, learning roles (for example explainers or enablers), and visitor services staff.

In April 2021, a UK-wide project team with experience in these roles was established to develop the scope and approach. This project team explored the drivers and expectations for change and developed questions to build a better understanding of the treatment and experience of front-of-house colleagues.

In July 2021 a questionnaire went live and received more than 340 responses. Through review and thematic analysis, the project team subsequently developed key themes and recommendations which were further tested and developed during a MuseumHour session.

In September 2021 these themes and recommendations were further tested and refined via focus groups.

A summary research report will be published in August 2022, where we hope that more detailed analysis will provide additional insights to support best practice and improve the experiences of front-of-house colleagues.