Managing History Blog 6, Public Historical Work and Accompanying Difficulties

The article from Minju Bae regarding the struggle of unionization at The Tenement Museum reminded me of a sort of recurring joke I’ve heard over the years. It’s short and typically said in the context of a worker saying “Nah, my boss told me a union wouldn’t work here, and he usually Loves unions!” While museum has made efforts to diversify its narrative to more accurately reflect the realities of tenement life in the post war, due to the museum’s strong ties to Jewish History I did see some familiar names that came as a surprise. Labor practices in archival and public history work have been on my mind this semester; there seems to be no simple route in entering the field that translates to a Iiving wage and proper benefits, and expectations of work put in seem even more extreme when taking that into account. I’ve learned this both from learning about the inner workings of the Alley as well as from looking into some of the labor practices at one of my favorite historical institutions. Amy Tyson’s work The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines regarding the inner lives and toll taken on by public history workers/interpreters. Her analysis is primarily based in “Historic Fort Snelling” with additional archival work on top of interview work and personal experience. Due to my order of reading I took the book as somewhat a supplementary work to the article from Minju Bae and it compounded the potential difficulties I see in Public History as a profession. In the words of Billy Ray Cyrus, “Much to think about.”

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