Do you love checking out the latest exhibitions? Do you think the Tate is great? Are you the Barbican’s biggest fan? Do you think the Wellcome Collection is verging on perfection? Well, you’re in the right place!
Museum and gallery exhibitions don’t just spring up out of thin air – they need to be planned, organised, managed and promoted by a dedicated museum/gallery exhibitions officer. These project managers are the clever people who make the UK’s cultural landscape so fantastic.
Performing a diverse range of tasks, from procurement and PR to marketing and events management, museum/gallery exhibition officers are responsible for coordinating travelling exhibitions, permanent exhibitions and one-off cultural extravaganzas.
Occasionally, aspects of a museum/gallery exhibitions officer’s job will involve curatorial duties, such as conducting research, liaising with artists or collectors, deciding which pieces will feature in the exhibition, and contributing to the design and layout of everything.
Once an exhibition has been planned and designed properly, museum/gallery exhibitions officers are responsible for overseeing the installation of exhibits, organising transport and making sure everything is set up in a safe, timely and cost-effective manner.
The additional responsibilities of a museum/gallery exhibitions officer might include budget management, promotion, marketing and website content management.
Salary & benefits
At entry level, museum/gallery exhibitions officers tend to earn between £17,000 and £21,000 per annum, while senior professionals can earn up to £40,000 a year.
A museum/gallery exhibitions officer’s working hours are determined by the opening hours of the museum or gallery where they work. Consequently, you might be required to work evenings, weekends and national holidays occasionally, especially during peak seasons such as school holidays.
If your role involves organising road shows and mobile exhibitions, you will often be required to travel around the UK.
Some galleries and museums have late night openings, e.g. Late at Tate Modern and Science Museum Lates. Consequently, you may be required to ‘burn the midnight oil’ from time to time.
To enter this profession you will need an undergraduate degree in any subject. Generally though, a degree in a subject such as history, fine art, history of art, museum studies, classics, archaeology, war studies, anthropology or geography will be perfect for roles in art galleries, historical museums and places of cultural significance, such as the V&A, Imperial War Museum and the Jorvik Viking Centre.
On the other hand, a scientific, engineering or I.T.-focused degree will be useful if you want to work in an establishment such as the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum or the Eden Project.
A relevant postgraduate degree in museum studies can also boost your chances of securing employment.
Although a degree is traditionally the only route into this profession, the sector skills council Creative & Cultural Skills has created an innovative Cultural Heritage Apprenticeship for young people who wish to enter the museum and gallery industry without going to university.
Whatever route you decide to take, it’s essential that you gain relevant work experience in a museum or gallery. This is an incredibly competitive area of work, so volunteering with a museum, gallery or similar institution is a great idea.
Training & progression
Professional training and development is largely self-initiated, though various professional bodies offer courses and opportunities for professional development, such as the Museums Association.
Opportunities for career progression within large museums and galleries are limited to supervisory and managerial positions.
However, some museum/gallery exhibition officers may eventually move into other areas of work, such as events management, marketing and project management.