My museum is doing a compensation study, so I decided to look around and see what the proper salaries for mountmakers are. Mount making is such a niche profession I wonder what they will compare my pay rate to. At least at my institution, the mount maker has more responsibilities than a preparator does and I've been struggling to find something to compare salary ranges with.
The 2019 AAMD salary study only listed Associate Preparator (mean 44.5k) and Chief Preparator (mean 61k). I found this survey very interesting since in goes in depth by region and operating budget, if you have not taken a look at it I encourage you to do so.
The 2019 self reporting salary google doc that was circulation in 2019 only had two mount makers salaries listed. One salary was reported as being 60k at the Getty and another was for a institution in Philadelphia for 46k.
Are there any additional resources regarding pay scales around?
I work for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (de Young and Legion of Honor Museums) as one of two mountmakers.
Mountmaker pay ranges from $59,000 to $79,000.
Senior Mountmaker ranges from $63,700 to $85,300.
These are fulltime, union positions, and also reflect SF cost of living.
To go off of Ian's comment, I find it very interesting... I'm at a federal museum in Quantico and I am not making NEARLY that much and likely never will. I am a GS-07, step 1, which is about halfway through the GS scale for federal employees. Not including locality pay, it's about $35,000 for me per year. The locality pay is what shoots my pay up to around $48,000, since we're so close to DC and in a very expensive area. My position is Exhibit Specialist and Preparator. My co-worker has her Masters in art history and did multiple internships with high class DC museums, and she started at a GS-05 for an exhibit specialist (which is only about $30,000 base rate!). For someone (at least from what I know from working here) to make even just $70,000 (with locality pay) would take years of going up that step ladder. From what I've gathered, you won't make much unless you're in a high ranking position or you've been in the federal government for years. At my old place, I started at only $16 an hour, and by the time I left (2 years later) I had been bumped up to $20, but knew for a fact that my male counterparts were making at LEAST 20% more than me. The 2 contracted mount makers we hired while I was there had pretty different pays too; one gave us a discount and charged us $50/hr (DC native), and the other charged only $30/hr (Louisiana native). Not only does it likely depend on your location, but it may also depend on your gender, your age, your background, and the local politics. I think as a general, mount makers are incredibly underpaid. This is a really interesting thread though, thank you for bringing it to our attention!
I'm at a well funded, private museum in the Midwest. I'm currently also chasing the bottom end of wages to no avail with an increasing cost of living.
Unfortunately the google doc I shared doesn't take new submissions but I would be interested in a survey of the IMF and talking to other mount makers in the Midwest.
Hi Greta, and everyone,
I've been in recent correspondence with some other mount makers about this very issue (thanks for all of your help folks!)
At the suggestion of one kind colleague, I put the results of an online federal (USA) pay database search for "exhibit specialist" (this category includes mount makers among other exhibit professionals) into a spreadsheet and found this:
Exhibit Specialist pay for 2019 in the the federal service:
The median salary works out to about 39.24 $/hr. I know from recent personal communication that at two large non-federal public or quasi-public institutions in the USA (located on opposite coasts,) that wage rate lies in the upper half of the hourly wage scale for mount makers. The same sources say that some well-funded private institutions are paying a bit higher, but I don't have detailed information and it's often misleading to compare base wages. For example, the institution across the street might have health benefits worth an extra $4/hour, which works out to more than 8k a year (this is a real example).
You can use the inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to look at the 2019 amount in 2021 dollars (https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm)
For example, 81.6K in February of 2021 is 83.79K This uses the nation-wide Consumer Price Index: If you wish, you can look up local inflation rates and apply those.
Federal pay also uses a regional adjustment system; you can find out more about it here if you want to get deep in the weeds: https://www.federalpay.org/gs/locality
See also this source for quick info: https://www.federalpay.org/employees/occupations/exhibits-specialist
In addition: are you in contact with any other mount makers in your city or region? Perhaps you can drop them a line and and compare notes on hourly wages, health benefits, paid time off, etc?
Perhaps we should all fill in that self-reporting google doc...or create our own survey?
Those AAMD salary studies were always so depressing for me over the years. I always seemed to be chasing the lower end like a mad fool for the Western division salaries. I did get I teeny tiny bump when I went from Head Preparator to Senior Mountmaker/Head Preparator but at that time I was already five years behind on any raise at all. As we all were at the museum. Spent a few years just praying for a cost of living increase match. No such luck. Waiting for an institution to match your worth and skills is a fools errand. Took me 16 years for that to hit home. I'm a bit daft. When I price a contract now as an independent, it's clear that market demand places mountmakers closer towards independent conservator's ranges of pay. Which is closer to our field in many ways anyway. We're just a bit dirtier and grisled *grunts deeply*