Taking care of the workers: understanding museum and heritage professionals’ emotionally laden work

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Museums and heritage sites are being encouraged to form deeper more democratic relationships with their diverse publics requiring new skills and ways of working which utilise workers’ emotional labour.

However, little applied or scholarly attention has been paid to the role that this labour plays in creating resilient organisations. Questions can be raised around whether such labour is potentially exploitative, unbalanced, and undervalued and if there are sufficient organisational ‘structures of care’ to support those called upon to utilise emotions in their work.

This presentation will introduce a new collaboration which seeks to explore emotionally laden museum work in wider contexts of radical change and uncertainty (e.g., funding cuts, COVID-19, decolonisation, climate crisis).

Offering reflections on how and why museum and heritage professionals appear to be increasingly required to utilise their emotional labour in their daily activities, it will establish a wider research context, aims and objectives for this collaboration, while warmly inviting conversation to further steer initial steps into this domain.

Speaker: Dr Jennie Morgan and Dr Anna Woodham

 Dr Jennie Morgan is a Senior Lecturer in Heritage and MSc Heritage Programme Director at the University of Stirling. Her teaching and research examine museums as organisations (often with a focus on collecting and curating), and her curiosity in emotions in museum work was piqued via past research on worker safety and curating collections profusion.

Dr Anna Woodham is a Senior Lecturer in Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London. Her teaching and research is focused on the area of collections management, and she was drawn to the subject of emotionally laden work in museums via a research project on museums and climate change.


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