Higher History Wages on the Horizon?

Minnesota Local History Blog.

Minnesota Local History Blog.

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The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Higher History Wages on the Horizon?

By: grabitsdm | June 21, 2011
With a massive state deficit, looming government shutdown and layoffs for thousands of Minnesota state workers, now seems an unlikely time to talk about salary.

As is often said, those who work in local history have as part of their compensation an enormous amount of job satisfaction. Others respond that job satisfaction hardly feeds a family. The last salary survey (2006) conducted by the Minnesota Historical Society showed the average leadership salary at about $29,390 per year. There's no question that those who work in local history are undercompensated for the amount of training, experience and skill brought to these critical jobs.

However, local historical organizations are not exactly flush with dollars, or they likely would compensate better and offer more universally things like retirement, health, and dental coverage. How often isn't a director both female and married to someone with family benefits? With a lack of resources, some organizations rely on situations like this even though such organizations express a desire to compensate for work performance. Work, rather than other circumstances, should dictate compensation. Pay the worker what her work merits.

Economist Richard Florida wrote about How the Crash will Reshape America. (Atlantic Monthly, March 2009) In this essay Florida notes that it took a number of manufacturing job incomes to make a household cash flow prior to World War II. As laws improved so did compensation. He believes that the service industry - local history jobs included - is roughly in the same situation that manufacturing was some 65 years ago, and that the federal government may be wise to focus on improving conditions for service industry compensation. He terms this "The Great Reset."

The reset cuts two ways for local history. For the workers, improved compensation will make it far more possible to earn a living. For communities improved compensation means both retention of skilled workers and more money in the local economy. However, for local historical organizations this encouragement means a 'heads-up' that more financial resources may be needed in the future if the federal government pursues this suggestion.

As with many reforms, if this were to be adopted, it might not occur for a number of years. Indeed, the essay itself is a few years old, but was re-aired on Minnesota Public Radio two weeks ago from a July 2010 broadcast. Perhaps the delay in implementation will be sufficient to start the hard work of enhancing revenue streams through more robust membership rosters, wider opportunities to donate, expanded earned income, and more productive endowments.