There are so many positions within museums that I would be more that happy to apply for, however there are positions I prefer over others, While curatorial services hold the most interest for me personally, there are a number of other jobs across the museum that are interesting to me. At the last museum I worked for, I did a lot of hands on classes for all ages of the community. I was very involved with the educational and advertising aspects of the museum and even though it wasn’t my first choice, I had a lot of fun planning, teaching, and bringing the museum out into the world.  Those positions are vital to broadening the museums accessibility and require one to think outside the box in terms of creating excitement around attendance. In another museum, I volunteered as a docent and led tours. While this was perhaps my least favorite job i did, I still found enjoyment communicating directly with the public and having the opportunity to share my knowledge.

While the jobs I mentions above were fun, the area I have the most interest in would probably be curatorial. There are all sorts of jobs that excite me under that title, from entry level and up. The thing I appreciate the most about curatorial jobs is the range of duties that it covers. At the bottom, it allows opportunities in handling, storage and installation. So far in my life this is the only area I have personal experience in and I absolutely love it. As the head of a team you’re involved with the planning of an exhibition layout and are often a link between your crew and upper management or other areas of the museum, but even as an entry level handler in art gallery/museums, you often times get to speak directly with artist and hear their ideas about how they want their work displayed. Handlers need to be good at creative problem solving and mathematical reasoning, and you get to play with power tools, paint, and lighting. It’s hard work that changes everyday and is constantly a learning experience. The other thing that is always an exciting part of that job is at specific museums, the things you might get the opportunity to actually hold in your hands, even while wearing gloves. As I’ve said before, my background is in the art world and the idea that this sort of job would allow me to hold works by Henri Rousseau or Artemisia Gentileschi or the Gorrilla Girls just blows my mind.

Behold', Sheela Gowda, 2009 | Tate


Above the handlers are the Directors or Curators. For me these jobs seems less hands on and more about planning and research.It  involves reaching out to artists, institutions, or individuals, and trying to acquire specific works for a collection or to secure an exhibition. It seems like you’d have the opportunity to shmooz with people, rub elbows with donors and other things like that that require a very specific type of person. You have to represent your institution to the public and appear in the media.


Q: What are your thoughts about the competing priorities of donor appeasement and community outreach?

One Thought to “Jobs Discussion”

  1. Angela Linn

    Great observations Xochi! I love hands-on work as well and the summer I spent working for our exhibits department was one of my favorites. One of the great things about being a curator of a special exhibit in a museum our size is that you actually get to do the hands-on work, like helping with the installation! My former curator used to always say that I had the better job as the collection manager because I got to work with the objects every day – she just had to “sit around and write useless memos.” It is certainly a conscious choice people have to make if they decide to have a career path that moves into more leadership positions – the higher you move in the hierarchy of an org chart, the farther away from the collections you tend to get.

    Your question about competing priorities is an important one to consider – museums often have policies about not accepting conditional donations, which helps them navigate this question. Knowing your audience and what they want from you has to be balanced against the desires of your donors (whether they’re giving money or collection objects or specimens). A strong governing board or advisory teams can help museums work out those priorities and manage the fallout when the inevitable conflicts arise.

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