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Career Story: Director Of A Small Museum

Director Of A Small Museum

Job Title: Museum Director

Type of Company: I work for a historic house museum which is owned and operated by a genealogical membership group made up of descendants of the building's original owners. The organization's purposes are to preserve the house and to collect and preserve genealogical information about the extended family.

Education: BA, East Asian Studies, UCLA •• MA and Ph.D., Medieval Studies, University of York, England

Previous Experience: I received on-the-job training through two internships at a museum in Wyoming. Following this I worked as director of a local history museum in Wyoming for three years, and then for two years I worked as a historical researcher for a museum exhibits design firm.

Job Tasks: I supervise and train a staff of one part-time administrative assistant and 10 tour guide volunteers. I conduct tours of the historic house museum, maintain daily and monthly financial records of the museum (and also prepare bank deposits), plan and purchase the inventory of the museum gift shop, and conduct public relations, preparing and sending press releases to the local media. I edit the family association's thrice-yearly newsletter. I plan and write grant applications for conservation projects to preserve/restore museum artifacts and the historic house. I work with the Board of Directors, helping to set Board meeting agendas, reporting to the Board on museum activities, taking Board meeting minutes and working with the Board on planning activities such as developing the annual budget. I supervise the maintenance and preservation of museum artifacts and the historic house, doing in-depth cleaning of the artifacts and the house twice yearly. I attend annual museum association conferences and workshops on historic preservation/artifact conservation topics, in order to make contacts with colleagues who work in similar museums and to increase my knowledge of techniques used in the care and preservation of historic artifacts and houses. I answer telephone and e-mail inquiries from people seeking help in their genealogical researches and help them trace their connections to the family that lived in this house. I am also one of the main event planners for the annual family reunion that takes place on the museum grounds.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of my job are meeting members of the public and sharing stories with them of the people who lived in this house over three centuries, being able to share my love of history with the public and my co-workers, conducting historical research on topics related to the house and the family that lived here, in order to write articles for the family association newsletter and helping descendants of this family trace their genealogy.

the worst part is working in an under-staffed facility and having more job duties than I can properly perform.

Job Tips: Volunteer at a variety of different museums before seeking employment in the field, so you learn first-hand what aspects of museum work interest you the most, and so you learn more of whether this is actually the field for you. Realize that museums tend to be a fairly low-paying profession, so be sure that you are going into this field because you love it, not because you hope to earn a large salary.

Additional Thoughts: If you are considering going into the museum field, you should join a number of professional organizations such as the American Association of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, and your local museum association (in New England, the New England Museum Association). The publications of these organizations discuss a wide range of museum issues and will help you to become current with the issues facing people working in this field. These organizations also offer many training opportunities such as workshops on different museum-related topics, and publish/post job announcements in the field.

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