Museums are essential spaces for reflection, discussion, connection, learning and fun. Having access to collections, experiences and community interaction has a positive impact on individual health, wellbeing and a sense of identity and belonging.
The ways in which this takes place have expanded over time to include greater community engagement and digital participation, in particular during the coronavirus pandemic. This expansion has provided new and exciting opportunities to actively participate with museums, communities and collections.
For many, there is a major benefit in being close to objects, specimens and artefacts, and co-existing in a physical space with others, connecting, reflecting, learning and enjoying.
These positive museum experiences are only made possible by museum professionals engaging with visitors, supporting visitor safety and delivering to their varied needs – from having a coffee or offering help using an interactive, to pointing out a toilet or assisting a lost child. These front-of-house operational roles are key.
Each of these interactions contribute to the museum remaining welcoming, relevant, accessible, and central to our experience and society as a whole.
The museum professionals behind these interactions are most often described as ‘front-of-house’. These colleagues, whether paid or voluntary, deliver a 21st-century museum experience, and without them engagement, income generation, inspiration, and dialogue about collections would not take place.
The Front-of-House Charter for Change captures insights from research undertaken by the Museums Association, Front of House Museums and a dedicated project team.
The charter acknowledges the critical role front-of-house colleagues play in delivering a modern-day museum experience and provides a framework to reflect on systems, culture and practices that, based on our research, treat front-of-house colleagues differently.
While poor practices within the sector may affect all employees, the lack of ‘hierarchical’ power and agency that front-of-house colleagues have means that negative experiences are amplified and are often felt more acutely. It was this reflection and experience that accelerated the need for this research and the publication of the charter.
The Charter for Change provides the principles of practice that contribute to a more positive working experience for front-of-house colleagues.
The argument is clear from our research: if museums adopt the Charter for Change principles, front-of-house colleagues feel it will have a positive impact on their sense of belonging, performance and loyalty, and as such there are clear ethical and business cases for creating a positive experience of work for all.