Embracing Hug a Museum Worker Day?

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Perhaps next year we can hold “Free Pie For Museum Workers Day” instead.

This past Monday, June 29th, museum workers the world over were suddenly snuggled by their usually-tranquil visitors in celebration of the first annual International Hug a Museum Worker Day (IHMWD). A special day that all museum workers got together and agreed to hold.

Except they didn’t. Because such a day, well-intentioned to be sure, is contrary to the needs of most museum people.

Many museum workers are introverts who went into museums specifically because they did not want to be near, much less touch, regular people. In fact, they often don’t want to be around their own colleagues either. Still, if they are fortunate enough to be at a museum where they appreciate their coworkers, according to most HR guidelines that appreciation must end at physical contact. So an intraoffice celebration of IHMWD is out.

As preservation experience and various training sessions have shown, direct touching is generally fraught with problems. Museum workers don’t know where most visitors have been. Such contact would send the staff into a protective tizzy – the collections folks would be occupied ensuring the collection remains unsullied, while their colleagues would be busy implementing the integrated disease prevention protocol and making sure nothing inappropriate happens.

Besides, organizing such a day presents numerous opportunities for interdepartmental antagonism. If it were left up to the collections people everyone would be sorted and arranged according to hugging style (half hug, full hug, the lingerer, the bear hugger, etc.). Educators would prefer something more random and free-choice. The PR staff would want to hug as many as possible while reminding them to tell their friends how much they enjoyed themselves. The director would want the largest donors (by check, not body size) to be hugged first.*

Perhaps most importantly, museum workers can’t cuddle up to IHMWD because they already have more work than they can reasonably handle and they simply don’t have time for hugging. However, there is always time for pie.

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*Alas, the day is wasted on museum security guards who want a minimum distance of 24 inches between themselves and all potential huggers.

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About T.H. Gray

T.H. Gray is the self-appointed court jester and Dr. Demento for the history museum field. A lifelong museum professional and reenactor, he is a graduate of the prestigious Peale-Barnum Public History Museum Studies Program. Until 2011, when the AHS hired him away, he was on staff at the Benjamin Dover Memorial Museum & Swimming Pool ("Our History is All Wet!"). He remembers when museums were still about history, science, and art. BTW, all of these posts say they are by T.H. Gray because he can't turn off the byline. Credit, when due, is given. View all posts by T.H. Gray

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