2018 has been for me the year we have really started talking about working FoHMuseums, however a lot of it has been about the feeling of being undervalued, the damage it has done to the perception of what a museum front of house is and the damage it has had on the people who work FoH. This has been epitomised by many feeling it necessary to say “just” when describing what we do, just a visitor services assistant, just front of house, just operations. This is the demoralisation of a passionate workforce who are not feeling valued and are becoming disconnected. This theme of of FoH feeling undervalued is not recent I have continued to hear people in persona and social media talk about their feeling of being undervalued, the issue has risen many times. I know many times I have described what I do with the prefix “just” I couldn’t control myself, I just said it, to visitors , to family and to friends I just said it, undervaluing the work I do, undervaluing myself; internally I was writhing. The work which has defined what I want to do in life, how I see museums, what is important to me, I was actively undermining with just one word, “just”. We never need to say “just” we all know how important FoHMuseums, FoH are vital to every museum, we don’t have a museum without FoH, here is why FoH are so valuable.
FoHMuseums is real, we experience reality, the reality of museums, here you see the daily struggles, the pressures on museums to diversify incomes, sell more, become accessible and communicate heritage to all. Working in this high-pressured environment is not easy, it is a specialism which needs to be valued. FoH are the prime source of income generation, selling tickets, operating the shop, running the café and making after hours events possible. Museums cannot generate income with our specialised museum professionals creating and running these income sources. FoH know the need to make money, this is a valuable skill to have, the skill of reality, understanding the reality of museums. FoH however are passionate about making museums accessible and sharing the heritage museums preserve. FoH teams are full of knowledge, from the day to day running of the site to the encyclopaedic knowledge you need to have of your site to answer any question, however crazy it may be. If you think about it, FoH are probably more likely to share their knowledge to the public for the simple reason they are interacting with the public everyday. FoH perhaps do the most work to make heritage accessible, you know the language you need to use, and the importance to make our museums accessible to all visitors ensuring we create strategies and plans to make our heritage accessible. We feel the impact if the museum is not accessible… we know how important it is to people that heritage is accessible. Those who have chosen to work in FoHMuseums have chosen a career of preservation, preserving human interaction with our heritage, this is the conservation of the intangible, making an object an artefact.
The skills of FoH in museums make a specialism, a unique set of skills required for a unique role. There are many practical skills such as operating a till system, booking groups, managing visitor flow, managing people, health and safety awareness and becoming a trained first aider, to name a few. FoH specific roles will provide more skills such as public speaking, leading tours, researching, museum theory, upselling, maintenance each area of FoH has valuable skills which are specialised and fundamental to the successful running of a museum.
The importance of FoHMuseums is incredible, without FoH you don’t have a museum, you have no visitors and what is a museum without visitors? A storage unit, a place of decay, two things a museum certainly should not be. We never need to say “just” we make museums museums, we are the museum.
By William Tregaskes