Tag Archive | Museum

Unscientific nº3 – Volunteering, Internship and Slavery

You read the title and you’re now thinking what do all of this have in common?! Well everything… or at least almost everything.

The thing is, nowadays volunteering has become and unpaid job, and so did internships (at least in my country). And if you analyze the basics of slavery, you’ll find that its fundamentals are the unpaid work.

I have been doing volunteering for years now, and the more I volunteer the more I hate it. Social causes are one thing. You’re helping people, you’re helping society and others. “Social Volunteering” has always been a part of society, and it has worked great for many years. The problem is that volunteer work has extended to other areas, and is now a global economical problem – it steals jobs from qualified workers.

I did all kinds of volunteering. I know I could just not do them, yes, but then how would I gain experience to work?

All jobs ask for 3 to 5 years of experience. And that’s for a low paycheck. Higher paychecks ask for more “qualified” workers, which means more years of experience. 3 to 5 years means you have to spend 3 to 5 years doing volunteering works, because honestly, in my area, I have not seen a job offer that does not ask for experience.

What is my area you ask? Culture. I have a degree in Archaeology and I’m finishing my masters in Military History (Yes, that is an area of study… )

I’ve spent the last year volunteering at my university library. Before that I’ve volunteered as a tutor, and after next month I’ll be volunteering in a museum. My dream is to be a museum curator. In fact, I remember that when I was little (I think at 13 or something) I visit the museum of Natural History in London, I loved it. In that moment, without knowing, I was choosing the path that I’m now walking.

I studied archaeology because I wanted to work at a museum, touch and study the materials coming from excavations. I’ve had multiple experiences with those “artifacts”. Some better, some worse. The thing is, my experience is not enough. I doubt it will ever be enough, so I have to volunteer… hoping that one day, after 10 years of volunteering, I’ll have enough experience to be called for any museum.

So when you read this, and think that I’m comparing Volunteering to Slavery because I know nothing about volunteering, you’re wrong. I’ve been volunteering for years. And from that experience I’ve reached a conclusion that there are two types of volunteer work (and workers). On one side you find the Volunteering for Social reasons, and which basically you just want to help society, help it improve, help doing things that no one wants to do. For example, helping children from a minority group, or elderly, etc etc. This volunteer work has what I call “The Human Factor”. You want to volunteer because you want to help. I’ve done that kind of volunteering, and It’s amazing. The feelings, the fullness… it’s beyond words some of the best kind of sensation one can feel.

Then there’s the second kind of volunteer work – Slavery. You heard it, that’s what I call the second type of volunteer. In this type of volunteering you’re basicly just working to gain experience and nothing more. You’ll not get paid, you are stealing someone else’s job.

To illustrate better, let me give you a couple of examples.

I’m volunteering at a library, and I’ve volunteered as a Tutor, and next I’ll volunteer at a Museum. All these places have a minimum of 20 more volunteers for 4 or 6 months. While having 3 or 4 actually employees. For example the museum. At the meeting we were I believe 15(?) volunteers (or something like that). While the rest of the museum team was I believe was 5 people. It’s actually a very low number between employers and volunteers. . The lowest I’ve seen as a volunteer.

The thing is, this volunteer work is ONLY for the summer, in which the amount of museum visitors will triple. They don’t want to hire more people, because that would mean use more money, so they start, what they call a “volunteer program”. In reality volunteers will be doing what should be done by qualified workers. They will be there to help the visitors, they will be there to answer any questions, etc, etc. AND YOU HAVE to act as if you’re actually a worker – do your best, be there every day you’re supposed to, because you have to be responsible, be there on time… etc, etc. All things an actual worker has do to too.

Volunteers are there to fill places that should be filled by qualified people. Yes, they don’t do the “important” work. (Although they can in the future, “as we’re still experimenting, and this is the first time we’re opening a volunteer program, so your duties may evolve”). So basically, nowadays, companies are opening “volunteer programs” because they don’t want (or can’t) pay for qualified workers. This has special impact in Culture, in which this “phenomenon” has been increasing, making an average of 1-2 workers for 20 volunteers.

Now, internships… oh boy, do I have a lot to say about this… Again, my area is culture, so this is mostly a problem in the Cultural world. You need to keep in mind that this may not apply to other areas.

Ok, so to finish my degree in archaeology I had to do several internships in several excavation sites. In all of them there was 1 Archaeologist and could have 1 or 2 Assistant archaeologist (these were, sometimes, students taking their masters degree, which means they were not being payed…But some were).

So you see the numbers here are either 1 to 3 people getting paid in an excavation site. And I’m not talking about those small excavations, by private financing from small companies… No. All of these excavations were being financed by the government! By the district of regional governmental administrative buildings… And worst is yet to come.

These 2 or 3 people were paid. And then there was 20 or more interns… because we had to be there or we wouldn’t graduate. It was 20 or more interns carrying buckets and digging holes, while the “archaeologists” supervised or excavated the more interesting things. So here we are again on a scale of 1-2 to 20…

But it gets even worse.

Because having 20 unpaid interns (that ARE qualified to do the work seeing we were all archaeology students), was not enough, they decided to bring in the most outrageous thing I’ve ever seen. 20 interns, 2 or 3 archaeologist and then 15 children. Yup, children. And again, that’s not the worse part. dsc00902
The 12 to 16 years old kids, carrying buckets, were not volunteering there. They were in a summer camp. Their parents WERE PAYING for their kids to be there. So you see, there was like 30 or 35 (I don’t even know anymore) interns plus kids, and 2 or 3 people getting payed.
This means that out of (more or less) 40 people 2 or 3 were being paid, while half WAS PAYING to work there, and the other half had to be there if they wanted to graduate…

This is why I’M AGAINST internships and volunteer working. I need a job and I CAN’T have one because:

– EVERY museum has a significant number of volunteers (especially during summer, in which they NEED more people to work) so they don’t need more workers;

– EVERY museum that actually has a job offer, asks for significant experience that I DON’T HAVE despite the fact that I have being volunteering for years, and did internships…



PS. The picture I used Is OK, because the childreen are just SIMULATING an excavation, not actually doing the job of anyone…