Bridging the gap between front- and back-of-house

Matt Holmes, 16.07.2018
Case study from the West Midlands Emerging Museum Professionals group
My advice is simple, and it applies to all parties. For museums, take care of your front-of-house staff. Make them feel wanted by the organisation. Give them the chance to express themselves in matters relating to the museum, and give them plenty of opportunities in which to train and develop in order to maximise their potential.

They are, of course, the public face of your organisation, and it is important to incentivise them into wanting to promote your museum and engage fully with its visitors. Understand the role better, as well as the challenges facing visitor-facing staff.

Take time to experience it for yourself, and never forget to engage those staff to find out their thoughts about their roles. Many of them are just starting out in the sector, as you once did, and are hoping to progress and advance themselves in similar ways. Bridge the gap between front-of-house and back-of-house, and you can only improve the team working for you.

To front-of-house staff, or those thinking of starting a career in museums by following this path, think long and hard about your future. What do you want to do? How will your role help you to achieve this?

It is not uncommon to feel uninterested and apathetic towards aspects of the role. I have often noticed that there is a distinct lack of equilibrium between enjoying the role you are currently in and thinking long-term about your goals.

One always seems to dominate over the other, and I myself have found myself focussing on one at the expense of the other. The solution is to try and squeeze as much out of the role as possible. Talk about your career aims and objectives.

Any manager worth their salt will notice this and identify things you can do within your role to contribute not only towards your career progression, but also your enjoyment and self-motivation towards your role.

I am a representative for one of the many Emerging Museum Professional (EMP) groups that have sprung up in the past couple of years, and many of the members of these groups work in a front-of-house capacity. We want to welcome them into our networks, to give them a platform to express their views and grievances, and also to help them achieve their career aims.

We want to raise issues and ask questions of the sector. How and when do you move from ‘emerging’ to ‘emerged’? Why do so many people drop out of the sector? How do we cope with the upcoming challenges within the sector? No matter what the discussion, front-of-house staff have a voice, and we feel it is necessary to listen to them.

Matt Holmes is a period interpreter at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and a representative for the West Midlands Emerging Museum Professionals group