This is a brief summary of the first stage of my analysis. For a full update see the presentation here.
To understand how class might matter in museum work, it is important to understand how museum work is structured and valued, in other words classed. What sort of positions might be of a different status than others and why?
In initially scoping this PhD it was clear that museum work is characterised by boundaries and hierarchies, and I explored these in greater detail with many of you in nine focus groups and 57 interviews. In total 132 people participated.
The diagram above is a representation of your insights and discussions. I am using Bourdieu’s concepts of economic capital (e.g. income and property) and symbolic capital (status and prestige) to map both museum type and also museum role. Note: this analysis is not based on an absolute or universal measure of capital but an analysis of the principles used by participants when discussing status of institutions and types of work. Their significance is in understanding how people in museums attach meaning, potentially to their own position and to that of others.
Some positions more equal than others?
My analysis discerns four key positions based on status (symbolic) and economic capital.
1) Most capital: Those that have most capital (economic & symbolic); E.g. national museums, directors
2) High status: Those that have high symbolic but lower economic E.g. curators, conservators
3) High market value: Those that have high economic but low symbolic E.g. marketing, retail
4) Least capital: Those that have low economic and low symbolic E.g. front of house roles, security
Ideas underpinning “classing”
These are the ideas or processes which underpin how participants made distinctions:
1.Symbolic = keeping museums special Those positions classed as higher status tend to be those that make the field distinctive e.g. specialist roles such as curators
2.Economic = silent role of money: Museums specialness is in part about resisting commercial interests. The pursuit of money (as an institution or an individual) is a pragmatic rather than a celebrated discourse. And yet money is clearly needed
1.High cost of achieving status: Symbolic capital (status) for individuals is obtained at cost e.g. sacrificing a higher income; investing in expensive courses or working for free. This matters for those with less money.
2.Positions matter; those in higher positions have higher visibility and voice over what counts, whereas those in lower positions have less voice and visibility
3.Closed boundaries? The boundaries between the positions is seen as difficult to cross
In the next stage of analysis I will be exploring what it takes to get in and on, or achieve these positions, how do people class themselves and each other, and how does all of this contribute to classed inequality?