Art and Design
What the work
Museum work could be for you if you:
- are interested in objects and their environment;
- like building up collections;
- enjoy describing and documenting articles;
- care about restoring and preserving artifacts;
- are good at display;
- can make their collections appealing to young and old alike;
- like working with the public.
Not all glass cases
Museums today have usually shed their image of being dull, silent places. Now, their collections are displayed in imaginative and lively ways to bring the past alive to visitors. Museum visiting is a very popular leisure activity, attracting over 110 million people a year. The days when everything was in glass cases have long gone and collections have accessible ‘interactive’ displays to make topics meaningful to adult and children alike. If you have visited major museums in London, you will know what exciting exhibitions are mounted. You will also find that many of the smaller museums now take an educational approach to their displays. Many try to actively involve their visitors – for instance Blists Hill Open Air Museum at Ironbride and the Beamish Open Air Museum in Country Durham.
Design staff, modelmakers, taxidermists, photographers, etc
These specialists are employed by bigger museums, but not in large numbers, In small museums, staff tend to be jacks of all trades, and one person often has multiple skills. Larger museums may have a department for the preparation of exhibitions, and also a design department.
Relevant specialisms are:
- three-dimensional design for planning and constructing temporary and permanent exhibitions;
- graphic design for exhibitions, catalogues, posters, labelling of the collection, design and layout of publications, etc;
- modelmaking for all types of collections, including natural history, science, technology, archaeology, marine collections, etc;
- taxidermy for natural history collections; .. photography for display and exhibition work, etc, and also recording specimens, including site work on excavations, etc.
For design staff and photographers, an appropriate professional training is generally needed. The University of Lincolnshire and Humberside offers a BA Honours degree in Museum and Exhibition Design, and a BTEC Higher National Diploma in Exhibition and Heritage Display is offered at Mid-Warwickshire College. There are BTEC HND courses in exhibition design at Berkshire College of Art & Design, Boumemouth and Poole College of Art & Design, Central College of Commerce, the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside, and Dewsbury College. BTEC HND courses in modelmaking are available from South Devon College, Suffolk College and the Kent Institute of Art and Design. For course listings and details, consult the ECCTIS database or the Laser Compendium oj Higher Education in your local career centres. For detailed information on training, consult the CRAC Directory oj Higher Education.
Museum educational staff help visitors of all ages to learn from museum collections. They may prepare publications and information packs, give talks, etc, and sometimes organise loan services to schools and colleges. There may be other duties such as organising and running junior museum clubs, talking to local clubs as a guest speaker, and so on. It is usually necessary to have teaching qualifications and experience, preferably with a degree, or a strong interest, in a subject relevant to the museum's collection. There may also be some opportunities in publicity or public relations, or with writing and design. The London Institute of Education offers an MA course entided 'Museums and Galleries in Education'. For further information on educational work in museums, contact the Museum Studies Department at Leicester University for its leaflet by Eilean Hooper Greenhill (see Further Information section).
The Museum Training Institute (MTI), together with City & Guilds, now provide a training and qualifications structure for all areas of museum, gallery and heritage work. National Vocational Qualifications are available up to and including NVQ level 5.
FINDING A VACANCY OR TRAINING PLACE
Jobs and training courses in museum work are extremely popular and competitive, so get the best qualifications you can before you apply. Determination and enthusiasm are essential. Visit as many museums and galleries as you can. Be able to talk knowledgeably about a special interest, and try to add some experience to your academic qualifications - get involved on a voluntary basis with archaeological digs, the local museum, a conservation project, etc.
Vacancies are advertised in the quality national press and specialist journals, including the Museums Journal available ttom the Museums Association. Some posts at lower levels (e.g. for technicians and assistants) may be advertised locally only, and some posts in national museums are recruited through the Civil Service.