During the pandemic, museums worked tirelessly to create a sense of meaning and belonging for communities. We provided hope and supported community wellbeing. However, this was sometimes at a cost to our own wellbeing.
The work museums do is rarely without emotional content, from dealing with a lost child, to researching hidden histories or dealing with problematic objects, to being a lifeline for marginalised or isolated groups. We work in an emotional space, and this can have an impact on our own wellbeing. Museums need to acknowledge our space as an emotional one and the potential associated hazards for employees, volunteers and freelancers.
Our recent research into workforce wellbeing highlighted that some museums are supporting staff wellbeing, for example by training mental health first aiders. But programmes to support those working with communities were varied, with fewer than 40% of respondents saying they had specific policies and practices.
In December we launched our new Community and Workforce Wellbeing Campaign, which asks museums to pay more attention to emotionally laden work and to prioritise wellbeing in everything we do.
Tamsin Russell is the professional development officer at the Museums Association