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Thoughts on Reopening: "It's Not My Job"

Since COVID first shut down museums a year ago, I have heard too many staff members and interns state that cleaning “is not what I was hired to do” or “is not my job”. Listen. I get it! I don’t want to clean up after ungrateful, rude patrons or even lovely, considerate ones, either. Do I like working for $9.50 an hour with a master’s degree? Or does Sarah like working as much as she does off the clock? Or does Kathleen like not working in a museum right now? Nope. But these are the situations too many professionals find themselves in right now.

We’re all just trying to figure out how to function… and that might mean that your job description and expectations differs from life pre-COVID. The field is evolving, and we need to make sure that we’re doing all that we can to keep moving forward.

So, my thoughts on this? Suck it up, buttercup. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: we are recreating museum praxis right now! Thinking that you are above cleaning something because it’s not in the job description sends a bigger message:

“I care more about my position, standing, social perception, and am too prideful to do something I wasn’t specifically hired to do”.

Which, unfortunately, can come off as

“ I don’t care enough about staff or the public to clean”,

regardless of whether or not it’s true. Take the time to make sure the environment people are entering into is a safe and clean one for them to enjoy.

This is the same mentality as wearing a mask—you wear it to show that you care about other people. I’m fully vaccinated and still wear a mask at work and in public. Even though I can’t transmit the disease, I continue to do so to show others I care about them when I’m out and about.

So, we’re going to have to get used to it; this is the new normal.

Sarah Hixson (she/her/hers) is an emerging museum curator and educator. Have questions or comments for her? Comment below or send us an email at and she’ll get back to you as soon as she can.

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