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Career Story: Exhibit Design Coordinator For A Museum

Exhibit Design Coordinator For A Museum

Job Title: Exhibit Design Coordinator

Type of Company: Currently I work for a state-run museum of natural sciences.

Education: BFA, Painting, Tyler School of Art, Temple University

Previous Experience: I have been designing and managing exhibit fabrication projects for over 25 years. I have worked as an employee in the exhibits departments of two natural science museums and for two exhibit production businesses. I have also worked as a consultant for exhibit design and production for several projects by exhibit production business.

Job Tasks: Currently, I work with diverse groups of educators, scientific researchers, and designers to develop exhibits for a new informal science education facility that will open to the public in approximately three years.

I research exhibit ideas by talking to scientists and reading about current science. I also help organize the research of other members of the group, suggest exhibit techniques, and facilitate communication for the group with our administration and other designers. Most of my time is devoted to writing descriptions of our ideas, formatting spreadsheets of our needs, and communicating with others through emails and phone calls. I also help each group review and mark up blueprints and drawings of the new building and exhibits that are produced by contractors.

In the past, my focus was more on building natural science exhibits, the lifelike displays of trees, rocks, animals, and murals that makes up a diorama. My days were spent planning the fabrication of the sculpture and painted elements, directing other artists, and sculpting and painting some of the elements myself.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: As an artist who is interested in science, I would have to say the best part of the job is working closely with science educators and researchers. I have opportunities to visit natural areas with the researchers and learn about the most current science from their perspective. Taking this information and turning it into an exhibit that will communicate to the public is more than just putting puzzle pieces together, it is like creating the puzzle pieces that we start with.

Years ago, I spent most of my time doing the hands-on work of designing, sculpting, and painting exhibits. Now I spend most of my time formatting information into spreadsheets and Word documents: in short, organizing the work for others to do. The worst part of the job is spending so much time at the computer.

Job Tips: Designing and developing science exhibits is a team sport. Learn to listen and ask questions. Instead of just giving your own opinion in a group of experts, practice reflecting back what you have heard, and helping team members hear each others' ideas. Then help the group prioritize their ideas. This applies whether you are preparing to build something yourself, or describe to others what needs to be built.

You may have opportunities to promote your own ideas, but sometimes it is more important to take on the role of helping the whole group move forward.

Spend time visiting informal learning centers such as museums not only to see the exhibits, but to see how visitors interact with exhibits. Learn enough about your topic to present information, not just opinions.

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