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Vacuum Cleaner Manslaughter

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Last week I penned a “hang in there young museum professional” post. Writing it helped me realize how difficult I was finding it to get my museum career started on the right foot. Speaking to other young professionals in the same position, often while we all consumed tough day wine, proves I am not alone. So insert your favorite we are all in this together cliché here.

Once a week we are going to write about the tribulation young museum professionals face. Hopefully, this will inspire reads to not feel alone. We have picked a cooky line of work. Let’s celebrate the results of that decision together.


This week I would like to talk about vacuum cleaner manslaughter. Even if you haven’t killed a Hoover, you have been or will be in a similar situation. It started when my boss asked me to take down the Christmas tree in the children’s room of our historic home. Easy right?

During my next shift, a Saturday where I was working alone, I got right to it. Packing up the tree went fine. Mission accomplished. Then I noticed the tree had left pine needles on the carpet. The little overachiever in me decided not to wait for our cleaning staff to handle it. I can use a vacuum; why should visitors have to step on plastic pine needles?

Thirty seconds after I plugged in the museum’s only vacuum, it died. As indon’t call the ambulance, call the coroner dead. I considered shoving the vacuum back in the closet and pretending I never touched it. My conscience got the better of me.

I emailed my boss explaining I killed the Hoover (that as far as she knew I had no reason to touch). In our time as young museum professionals, we are all going to have to write similar emails. When writing your first or fifth, “Hello, sorry, I messed up,” email, know you are not alone. It is a growing pain we can all tackle together. One day, we will be the high-level staff receiving such emails.

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