Love ‘em or hate ‘em – museums are a big part of our cultural communities!
And while they’re not everyone’s cup of tea to spend an afternoon in, we know there are quite a few of you who love the idea of working in one.
Museums are vital for connecting us with parts of our histories, cultures and modern lives! From science to natural history, fashion to travel, museums represent a massive cross-section of how we’ve come as a species.
International Museum Day 2022
Wednesday the 18th of May is International Museum Day (bet you didn’t know that was a thing!).
The objective of International Museum Day (IMD) is to raise awareness about the fact that:
“Museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures, and developing mutual understanding, cooperation, and peace among peoples.”
Events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or an entire week. All around the world, more and more museums participate in International Museum Day – in 2021, more than 37,000 museums will participate in the event in about 158 countries and territories.
This year, the theme for the day is “The Power of Museums”, and we can think of no better way to celebrate this than by exploring some of the incredible careers you could get involved in!
5 Careers in Museumology to Know About
It’s not all checking tickets or stocking the shelves in the gift shop! A lot happens behind the scenes in a museum to create the educational and interactive experience visitors want when they step inside.
Here’s a look at some of the roles that help to make that happen:
Museum conservators care for and restore all the weird and wonderful treasures you’ll find throughout a museum, from paintings and plants to animal specimens, pottery, jewellery, and other objects of historical value. Some conservators work with tools, machinery, coins, stamps, and even antique toys or medical equipment.
Conservators conduct historical, scientific, and archaeological research using chemical tests, x-rays, and microscopes to check the components and materials of specific pieces. This helps them determine the age and condition of a given object, vital information for the restoration process.
2. Model Maker
Have you ever walked into a museum and seen a miniature model of an important scene – perhaps a landscape or historic battle? Maybe a replica of what a certain area looked like pre-industrialisation? Those models are all made by model-makers!
Model makers look at drawings, drafts or samples and consult designers about the specifications to re-create a scene in miniature. They then choose suitable materials, mark out all the parts, determine the layout and cut out pieces using the appropriate equipment for the material being used. Model makers might create permanent displays for museum collections or one-off scenes designed to sit alongside one-off exhibitions.
3. Museum Attendant
The heart and soul of the museum! Attendants work across different areas to ensure exhibits are kept safe and respected, but they’re also on hand to offer advice, guidance, and directions and share in the enthusiasm of visitors as they experience everything the museum has to offer.
Attendants play a key role in the overall visitor experience and customer service aspects of individuals in the museum. But they’re not just standing around making polite conversation. They’re also knowledgeable and have to keep up to date on all the museum exhibits to be able to answer questions and respond to queries.
4. Museum Curator
Museum curators are responsible for creating specialist collections for the museums they work for – usually finding unique and exciting ways to rotate and showcase the collections museums acquire.
They work as a team to develop ways in which objects, archives, and artwork can be interpreted through exhibitions, publications, events, and audio-visual presentations. They’re also the main point of contact for other museums or organisations who might want to borrow objects and pieces for external exhibitions or use in teaching. Alongside this role, many curators also participate in education across the museums, speaking with tour groups or school groups about what they do and how the collections come together.
Taxidermists are pretty similar to conservators in a way, in that they work to restore and preserve things – although in their case, it tends to be dead animals! Taxidermists have a very specialist set of skills to conserve, repair and preserve animals for various museums. You’ll typically see their work in Natural History Museums, where a lot of the work involves repairing and caring for historical taxidermy.
As the process of taxidermy has improved over the years, many taxidermists work to maintain their specialist knowledge, using it to help maintain essential specimens within museum collections.
How Do You Get Started in Museology?
Getting started with a career in a museum will depend on the type of role you’re interested in!
Museum attendants don’t need any particular qualifications, although some studies in a relevant field and the ability to demonstrate a passion for the type of museum or exhibits you’ll care for are quite important.
Museum conservationists, curators and taxidermists will usually need a bachelor’s degree in museum studies and typically specialise in a broad discipline, such as anthropology, art, decorative arts, natural history, social history, science or technology.
Work experience is a must, and it’s never too early to get started!
Why not reach out to your local museum of interest and ask the question? You never know where it’ll take you!