The Top Museum Human Posts of 2023

Museum Human readers in 2023 enjoyed interviews almost as much as reading about quiet quitting.

snow-covered mountain peaks beyond lakes (in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile)
What were the tops of 2023? (Photo by Olga Stalska / Unsplash)

Museum Human readers in 2023 enjoyed interviews almost as much as reading about quiet quitting.

Before I start, I want to add one point about last week's post that finished up my multi-week review of Robert R. (Bob) Janes's Museums and Societal Collapse: The Museum as Lifeboat. I closed my review with this paragraph:

The book—and really, the writing of all good "doomers" who aren't in it for nihilist clickbait but for humanity—ends by asking, "Who will steward the future?" If you're not willing to raise your hand—even with all the traumas we are enduring (and, for many of us, have participated in causing or extending)—then the bigger question might be, why are you here?

I know the point I was making about working in museums, an ostensible "good" field, there to make the world a better place; hopefully, you understand what I had intended. But, I did start to wonder, do I have the right to ask people, "Why are you here?"

So many of us are dealing with trauma, so I want to remind us all that sometimes, even oftentimes, rest is resistance. So is saying no to standard notions of productivity and economic growth. Saying no to being part of a growth machine that benefits others in your hierarchy, or any hierarchy, is part of stewarding the future and moving through collapse. Saying no to certain things can also be the step in saying yes to others, hopefully the right ones.

With that digression, let's check out the top posts of the year on this site.

The website

Museum Human is primarily a newsletter-driven endeavor. For a few reasons, some technical and some time-based, I provide the full post in each email to subscribers, and I require a (still-free) subscription to read almost anything on the site (a few older posts are probably viewable by non-subscribers).

It's not quite apples and oranges to say that readership of the website is down over previous years—for one thing, page numbers can be noisy as analytics anomalies show up from time to time, spiking numbers on particular days. In addition, I know from working on a digital project at my museum that pageviews as a metric have lost some value over other measures of engagement and impact, themselves not always easy to measure.

It's also quite obvious to me that leaving the site formerly known as Twitter has made discoverability and virality much more of a challenge. Mastodon and Bluesky are not substitutes, and while LinkedIn has helped drive some traffic and sign-ups, it's not the same. I'm glad I'm no longer on the site that that social media company has become, but like many others, having to leave was a disappointment that has affected this business, as it were.

On December 10, I exported this page from Google Analytics 4 (GA4), for the 22 top page visits for 2023 (including the home and "about this blog" pages). Please excuse the tiny type; click on the image if you want to zoom in.

a table of the most viewed pages on the Museum Human website
A Google Analytics 4 (GA4) report from December 9 about the blog's top posts by pageviews, including the homepage (#1) and "about" page (#7). Note that #11, "Museum Leadership for the Rest of Us," is a post from 2020.

The most-viewed post on the website was Quiet Quitting in Museums is More than Just Taking It Easy, from back in January. This isn't surprising, as it got some traction on LinkedIn and thus a lot of recommendations.

The next four were all interviews, with Robert R. (Bob) Janes, Jen Holmes of LACMA, Jose Antonio Gordillo Martorell, and Kyle Bowen of Museums As Progress. Interviews with Dr. Lauren Vargas, Caitlin Southwick of Ki Culture, and Annabell Vacano of Atopia also made the top 20 in terms of page views. This also isn't surprising, as interviews get additional word of mouth from their subjects and people in the field who know of these valued colleagues. It's also gratifying, as the interviews take more work to get posted, part of the reason I'm shamefully still behind on getting four more interviews live.

Quiet quitting (#1 post), the Great Resignation (#7 post), and remote/hybrid work (#16 post, though it appeared several other times as a subject), were all popular, including when they were treated as an interconnected trio (#11 post).

Other posts that got high readership on the site were Wrong, Revisited: Museum Worker Pain Points (#6), AI, ChatGPT, and Museum Work (#8, the first of many posts about AI), and a 2020 post on museum leadership (still #9).

The emailed newsletters

It's hard to tell how best to gauge the success of various newsletters. Some posts noted above, like The Great/Quiet/Remote Workplace Feedback Loop, Wrong, Revisited: Museum Worker Pain Points, and The Resignation Might Be Great, but is It Real? were the most opened email newsletters of the year. The fact that the list includes nine Links of the Week can make it a little hard to judge. Was this format consistently popular? Did certain topics pique readers' interest?

The interview with Jose Antonio Gordillo Martorell was the only interview to crack the top 20 of opened newsletters—in this case, was it the title of "The Museum Doctors"?

a table of the most opened Museum Human newsletters of 2023, sorted by percentage of readers who opened the email
The 20 most opened email subscriber newsletters of 2023. Again, quiet quitting/Great Resignation/remote and hybrid work, along with pain points, for the win … 

I don't want to read too much into this sorting—the opened percentages aren't that different. Perhaps, however, it provides a little insight into what titles got people to open up their newsletters. Acting upon that information consistently will take extra time during the blogging process, of course.

What posts got people to sign up?

The post on quiet quitting was the "conversion" champ, which for Museum Human means getting people to subscribe who were learning of the post in other places—in this case, a mix of LinkedIn and direct (for those of you not well-versed in analytics, unlike me, who is just versed enough to be dangerous, this means that Museum Human wasn't found by any obvious source).

Quiet quitting came out on top again, followed by a pair of interviews (Bob Janes and Jose Antonio Gordillo Martorell), then my first piece on AI, and then my post on shrug culture. I thought this list contained a good mix of topics.

As I may have mentioned, signups to Museum Human have continued at a modest pace from week to week throughout the year, with a smaller number of folks unsubscribing. The site has over 1,000 subscribers receiving the newsletter, and growth–of which I'm not obsessed—is slow but steady. I'll be talking about ideas for next year in two weeks, but let's just say that I'll need something innovative to push that free subscriber needle if that's what I decide that I want.

So the winners are …

It's a sort of tie for most popular posts. Like in previous years, I looked for posts that showed up on several of the above lists:

Of course, Museum Human isn't about blog-post competition (I can feel capitalist society patting me on the head, isn't that cute?), but it's always interesting to read these tea leaves data and figure out what it might mean. I think we can say:

  • Quiet quitting, the Great Resignation, and remote/hybrid work continue to weigh on the field and its workplaces.
  • People want to read more interviews with fascinating colleagues in the sector.
  • AI's impact on museum work is grabbing our attention.
  • We're wondering about our pain points and how to help each other but not lose more of our exhausted selves.

This list will help us dive deeper next week into the subjects that Museum Human tackled over the year, usually thrust upon this site by current events and trends. On Friday, check out a bunch of links that are just hanging out on my laptop.

Bonus end-of-year lists from other sites

There will probably be more of these forthcoming, but two sites I read a lot published lists of their top posts of the year:

The Marxist journal Boston Review counted down the 23 favorite posts of 2023; I won't list them all, but here are a few from the first half of their list that mattered to Museum Human and probably showed up in some Links of the Week:
• Literature Machines
• Forum: Is Equal Opportunity Enough?
• Who Is History For?

Thank you again for sticking with Museum Human throughout this year. As I've said, these pieces don't write themselves (no AI!), and they certainly don't read themselves!

cover image by Olga Stalska / Unsplash [description: snow-covered mountain peaks beyond lakes (in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile)]

The Top Museum Human Posts of 2023 © 2023 by Robert J Weisberg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0