Welcome to module 3

Learning Objectives


Module 3 will introduce the many kinds of jobs found in museums. Specific sections will focus on jobs in the collections and curatorial areas of museums.

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • identify job types in museums
  • place each job within a museum division and/or type of museum
  • identify different pathways to museum careers

lecture THEMES

Overview, curation and research

There are many different types of museum jobs, some are only found in very large museums, while others are essential to any museum operation. A curator is employed by a museum or gallery to manage a collection of objects/ specimens or artworks, they acquire objects, care for them, develop the collection, arrange it in the best way that informs and inspires the public, and they direct and supervise curatorial, technical and student staff, and plan and conduct special scholarly collections-based research projects. Research Associates are senior experts in their field who maintain a formal scholarly affiliation with a museum. They often fund their own research through contracts and grants from federal and state agencies or are employed through grants awarded to the museum. They bring their own expertise and knowledge to the museum for the increase and diffusion of knowledge about collections.

Watch this video by Steffi Ickert-Bond on the different types of museum jobs, what museum department they are associated with and hear from employees at the University of Alaska Museum on how they describe their jobs. (26:39)

Administrative / Directors

Administration is a critical aspect to any successful organization. In a museum setting, this structure is typically headed by a director and an administrative staff that oversees human resources, finance, and operations. The administrative staff may also include head personnel from major museum units, such as research and collections, education, exhibits and visitor services. In this video, Director Patrick Druckenmiller provides an overview of administrative positions, with an emphasis on the duties of a museum director. (13:29)

Collections / Registration / Conservation

Staff who work in the museum collections are referred to as collections care specialists. Collections managers organize, describe, and provide access to the collections as well as act as the primary caretakers of the objects. Registrars serve as the record-keepers for some larger museums, often being the staff who make sure the museum is compliant with relevant laws. Conservators are specialists trained in art, art history, chemistry, and materials science, who provide direct treatment to repair items and develop sometimes complex storage mounts.

Watch this video by Angela Linn to learn more. (12:27)

Cultural Resources

Josh Reuther presents on what cultural resources and cultural resources management (CRM) are, what jobs are available in museums that relate to cultural resources management, and how CRM outside of a museum’s walls has an affect on a museum.

Watch this video by Josh Reuther to learn more. (10:24)


Museum staff have many different titles that are unique to our profession. We will be looking at staff primarily in the departments associated with collections but our vocabulary list includes staff from all across the museum organizational chart.

  1. Curator
  2. Collection Manager
  3. Registrar
  4. Conservator
  5. Director
  6. Collections Technician
  7. Keeper
  8. Organizational Chart
  9. Museum Educator
  10. Preparator
  11. Exhibit Designer
  12. Docent
  13. Researcher

Activities / Assignments

Reading / Video content



Curators, Conservators, and Museum Workers Career Video (1:40)

Meet A Curator: Dr. Rick Williams (3:17)

Daniel Weiss, ’85, Metropolitan Museum of Art: What Makes a Museum Successful? (5:22)

Museum roles: Exhibitions, Colchester + Ipswich Museums (1:31)

Ynés Mexía: Mexican-American Botanist and Adventurer



For Exploration:


Log into our course shell in Canvas and go to ‘Quizzes’ on the left side menu.

Take ‘Quiz 3’: Vocabulary relating to variety of museum jobs.

You will have up to three attempts to match the vocabulary and definitions. Click over to Canvas to take quiz 3.

Meet Up

Time to get together! This is optional but highly encouraged. We will meet via Zoom at 12:30 pm (AKST) on Friday, February 3. The link to the session can be found in this Google Document (you must be part of the class to view the document). If you are unable to join the meeting will be recorded and you will be expected to review the recording prior to writing your discussion post (see below).


Discuss: What does your ideal museum job look like?

  1. Create a new post on this website and answer this question based on your personal experience. Your post should be roughly 500 words and should include an image.  Think about material this week and personal experiences you have had to help illustrate your ideas. Alternately, find a recent news article to share about a museum, what are some of your thoughts relating to the article.
  2. At the end of your post, include a question for your fellow students to answer.
  3. Respond to each others’ posts (you will need to respond to/comment on at least two other posts).
  4. Select “3. Jobs Discussion” from the list of discussion categories on the right hand side of your posting window on the dashboard.

Looking Forward

Next week we’ll examine how museums are governed as well as the often complex and sticky world of legal and ethical issues in museums.

Did you know?

Fun tidbit not to be tested on.

Originally housed in existing buildings such as palaces or monasteries, the museum building emerged as its own distinct type of building in the 18th century. Today, museum buildings are considered works of art in their own right, such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City or Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.