A Google Spreadsheet document asking museum sector employees to post their position and salary to shed light on the earnings of museum employees that began Friday morning has been removed. Titled ‘Art/Museum Salary Transparency 2019,’ the document was shared publicly and those who wanted to could add their rate of pay and terms of employment at different museums around the world.
Past and present employees from the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many more shared their information anonymously. As of Friday afternoon, the highest included salary was reported by a male employee of the American Council of Learned Societies with the title of ‘digital humanities/collections projects manager/developer’ making $300,000 annually. The lowest was reported by a part-time, short-term editorial assistant at an artist’s studio making $5,000. Another two entries were provided by a pair of female curators of the Brooklyn Museum who make $44,000 and $50,000. Another senior curator for the Guggenheim, who chose to remain anonymous as far as their gender and specifics of their position, listed their salary as $100,000 but stated that they started out at $20,000.
Given that the information is voluntary and anonymous – contributors were urged to ‘be safe’ and ‘be comfortable’ about what they disclosed – there is no way to check the accuracy of the information given, but the author, Michelle Millar Fisher, of the spreadsheet hoped that the document would promote a better understanding of wages across the museum sector. Fisher is an assistant curator and writer for the Philadelphia Museum of Art within the European decorative arts and design department. In the past, she has worked for the MoMA, the Met, and the Guggenheim and told ARTNews that she made the spreadsheet in a matter of minutes sitting in her car. ‘I hope it encourages a conversation between coworkers. If you don’t do it, everything stays the same. Sometimes it takes just one tiny action. Solidarity is the only way to affect great change.’
Fisher said she was inspired to create the shared document, which now seems to have been taken down, made private, or deleted all together, after Kimberly Drew, well-known as @museummammy on Twitter, was transparent about her salary while working at the Met. On a May 21st, Drew tweeted that while working at the Met, she was aware of the differentiation in pay between her and a colleague because he was open about his salary. Drew then called for people within the museum sector to be similarly open about their pay to help others know where they stand and to highlight the undercompensation that individuals, particularly women of colour, face.
Today, I shared two slides about how being undercompensated at The Met was a motivator. What I didn’t mention was the fact that I knew I was being underpaid bc @taylorcnewby was transparent about his own salary. Taylor, thank you for being an ally. pic.twitter.com/Cg9NrqQfJ3
— kimberly rose drew (@museummammy) May 21, 2019
‘I hope it encourages a conversation between coworkers,’ said Fisher of her spreadsheet. ‘If you don’t do it, everything stays the same. Sometimes it takes just one tiny action. Solidarity is the only way to affect great change.’
While the spreadsheet has disappeared, hopefully, the intentions behind it and the call for transparency by Drew will promote the conversation around the differentiation in around wages within museums.
Update: The spreadsheet has been reinstated but is locked. To view the now 2,500-plus entries you can find the document here.