Report finds lack of diversity in curators at Major Partner Museums

Patrick Steel, 05.11.2015
Independent report published by ACE recommends new approaches
An independent report by the Museum Consultancy, commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE), has found that curators, exhibition staff and collections care specialists in Major Partner Museums (MPM) “appear to be less diverse than those in other roles”.

The report suggested “new approaches” might be needed to address this lack of diversity. It also pointed out a lack of quantitative research on this issue, making it difficult to implement a strategy to address it, and acknowledged that many specialist roles were changing.

It recommended that quantitative research be carried out and that MPMs should share practice on the re-scoping of specialist roles and job descriptions to enable greater diversity.

Other recommendations included targets for diversification of MPM boards, sharing of best practice on traineeships, internships and apprenticeships, and a national programme of management-level traineeships, which it would like to see in place from April 2018 at the latest.

The report also suggests that MPMs should “treat volunteers as an integral part of their workforce and make training opportunities available to them”.

John Orna-Ornstein, ACE’s director of museums, in a blog discussing the report, wrote: “Some of the report findings make depressing reading, at least in one sense. It shows that the workforce of many of our museums continues to be deeply unrepresentative of the wider population. This is the case right across the workforce, but even more so at senior leadership and board level.

“But the report also paves the way for a direct and positive response. It focuses on a relatively small group of museums, and it has come up with a series of very practical proposals for how these museums can diversify their workforce.

“The work will be led by our Major Partner Museums themselves, and it will take time. But it is a positive step in the right direction at a time when the imperative for diversity is clearer than ever before.”

Delegates at the Museums Association (MA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Birmingham will be taking part in a Big debate on Diversity at 12pm today, which will also be live streamed from the homepage of the MA's website.


Sort by: Most recent - Most liked

MA Member
26.01.2016, 09:40
I have to agree with the comment. I am a part-time museum curator with one child and was able to take the job because my husband earns more than I do. I am now in a position where my child is a teenager and I could work full time but cannot find a job in the area. It wouldn't be a good idea to move because my husband would still have to find an equivalent post and it would cost thousands. I will be dependent on my husband's pension too I expect. Still, I love the museum world, it is a worthwhile job and I know people who work full time for my wage. Hope for a better future and try not to despair!
MA Member
16.12.2015, 15:54
I don't think you can really do much to improve diversity until you improve pay. The fact that increasing numbers of museum posts are being cut to part-time also does not help. Someone who does not have either a partner with a full-time job, or some other source of income is going to find it very difficult to manage on the pittance that most museums pay. Add to that the frequent long periods of time someone who wants to work in museums needs to spend either getting qualifications, working for nothing or taking insecure short-term contracts - and you've cut out, in practice if not in theory - a huge number of people.

Museums have never paid very well, but they are getting worse all the time and not going to improve as far as I can see. The people the majority of museums jobs, certainly in my institution, suit best, is married women with children, who only want to work part-time anyway, and who can do it because they have husbands with full-time, non museum and therefore better-paid jobs!

Ironically - those same, highly intelligent, highly committed women do not usually progress to upper management because these jobs require heavy amounts of out of hours working which most of them, because of their families, cannot do...