I work as a Museum Security Guard. In order to live comfortably in New York City one needs an income of at least $75K to $80K. As you can see Museum Security Guards are the last on the list. We are the most visible and in fact we are the face of every museum yet we make the least. Often we put our safety on the line. Yes guards have been attacked by visitors. Myself included and believe me it’s worse for the female guards. Though it’s not reported it happens. We are maligned, mistreated and pretty much taken for granted by the visiting public and sometimes the other departments. Nameless. Faceless. Until trouble or need arises. At times No appreciation.
Yet over 95% of museum security officers at my workplace have at least a Bachelors degree and often advanced degrees, many of us are multi-lingual, a good portion of us are artists in our own right. Yes. That’s right most of my colleagues are writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, visual and literary artists. Talented and creative people.
Why do a job where you are often not respected?
Because we Love the Art. We are creative beings and working for a museum standing in those galleries day after day and sometimes night after night fuels our creativity even more. We feel we have something to contribute. Our reward comes from reuniting a lost child with his/her parents, a child, teen or even an adult’s eyes light up with knowledge as we not only direct them to a specific artwork but many times we are expected to have infinite intricate knowledge of various types of artworks on display and even those not on display, making sure that an ill/sick visitor receives the medical assistance they need in an emergency (And Believe Me when I say I’ve had visitors collapse, pass out, vomit, have convulsions and fall down stairs splitting their heads wide open bleeding profusely. I am not squeamish. Can’t be with my job.) We are trained to deal with various types of emergencies.
Despite the low pay and being called everything but a Child of God I’m glad for the 9 years I’ve spent working as a museum guard. It has been a learning experience and I’ve even surprised myself with all the knowledge and information I’ve acquired over the years. A Few years ago just for fun I created curriculum courses on How to Read a Painting partially based on the talks I’ve heard given by the Docents (Unpaid Volunteers) and the many curatorial talks I’ve attended. Being a museum guard can be boring and listening to the museum tours is a welcome distraction. Pretty much I came to memorized a good many of those talks verbatim. As far as I can tell the docents have a script from which they rarely deviate. I’ve also had the opportunity to give impromptu talks about the artwork. Not only do I listen to the docent/curator talks I also make it my business to watch videos about art and read books on the subject.
Me writing this is not to malign or be critical of the other museum works. I know the Curators work their behinds off and deserve their high paying salaries as do the technicians, art handlers, etc… My desire/wish is that Security be seen as an integral part of the museum team which we are since the museum galleries cannot open without security guards. Also a Living Wage that does Not require working hours and hours of overtime would be nice.
Now I work the Night Shift so I rarely see visitors. In addition to performing my Nightly Security duties I can spend quiet time reflecting on the various exhibitions since the galleries are empty and silent.
The next time you visit a museum especially one in my hometown of New York Thank that Museum Security Guard. You will bring Joy to their day. And by the way, DON’T TOUCH THE ART!!!
Museum Director: $233,398
Chief Operating Officer/Administrator: $150,100
Deputy Director: $142,994
Chief Curator/Director of Curatorial Affairs/Curator A: $123,725
Director of Development/Development A: $120,000
Chief Conservator/Conservator A: $107,832
Director of Information Systems/Chief Information Officer: $106,692
Director of Finance/Finance A: $103,000
Senior Curator/Curator of Special Collections Area/Curator B: $102,500
Director, Planned Giving/Institutional Giving: $95,000
Director of External Affairs: $94,500
Human Resources Director: $92,830
Senior Conservator/ Conservator B: $83,771
Curator of Exhibitions/Curator C: $81,017
Systems Manager/Technology Director/Director of New Media: $79,000
Director of Education/Curator of Education/Education A: $77,030
Facilities Director/Building Manager/Operations Manager: $75,400
Marketing Director: $74,375
Director of Finance/Finance B: $73,917
Associate Curator/Curator D: $69,340
Editor/Director of Publications: $68,688
Engineering Manager: $67,009
Exhibition Designer: $66,955
Head Librarian/ Librarian A: $64,272
Associate Conservator/ Conservator C: $61,165
Web Manager: $60,600
Public Relations Officer: $60,458
Grant Manager/Institutional Giving Manager/Development B: $60,416
Chief of Security: $60,416
Assistant Curator/Curator E: $58,052
Registrar A: $55,973
Associate Librarian/Librarian B: $55,703
Graphic Designer: $55,620
Special Events Manager: $54,368
Assistant to Director: $53,960
Chief Preparator/Preparator A: $53,077
Museum Store Manager: $53,000
Associate Registrar/Registrar B: $52,755
Development Associate/Development C: $52,020
Associate Educator/Educator B: $52,000
New Media Manager: $50,000
Associate Librarian/Librarian C: $49,728
Associate Preparator/Preparator B: $45,127
Volunteer Coordinator: $43,722
Assistant Educator/Educator C: $43,000
Assistant Registrar/Registrar C: $41,787
Curatorial Assistant: $40,000
Membership Assistant: $39,100
Education Assistant: $36,025
Museum Security Officer/Museum Security Guard: $31,213
Numbers from http://www.artnet.com/