Academic & curatorial
Curators acquire, research, display and explain/write about objects in their care, and are viewed as the academic experts for a collection. They usually have an academic background in a relevant field, and many advertisements for curators require postgraduate study. There are often Assistant Curators or Researchers in support roles at larger organisations. In auction houses a similar role is the Specialist. They progress to this role, usually through an internship, then a first role known as an ‘administrator’, then ‘senior administrator’; all these roles support the current specialist, while building deeper knowledge. Exhibitions Officers or Project Officers have a varied role planning, managing and presenting exhibitions and projects, working alongside the curator. They are not usually academic specialists. Although historically many have entered this work through volunteering, increasing competition for roles has made relevant professional qualifications (such as the Masters in Museums Studies), plus substantial work experience, highly desirable.
Information & collections
Collections Managers are responsible for the management of objects under an institution’s care, including their cataloguing, conservation, safety, acquisition and removal, storage and digital recording. In some larger institutions a Collections Manager might be supported by a ‘Collections Assistant’ role. A similar role, known as a Registrar, is also responsible for the objects, particularly their transportation to other museums/galleries or auctions. This may entail packing, arranging insurance and even travelling with the objects to ensure safe passage and suitable display. Photographers or Digital Managers would only typically be on staff in large institutions (other smaller bodies would hire-in this skill when needed). They’re used to document exhibitions and collections, and control and shape online content. All these roles are supported by Information Managers, Librarians and Archivists who work to record and facilitate use of materials by the institution’s clientele.
Production & conservation
In theatre, there is a vast array of backstage and production roles, and involved in university drama productions is a great way to build experience and gain insights into this work, with the University’s societies for drama (OUDS) and technicians and designers (TAFF). In heritage, Archaeologists, Archaeological Scientists and Finds Specialists are hired by some larger institutions to analyse items and contribute to reports and research about them (and sometimes work at a specific ‘dig’). Smaller organisations might not have this function on staff, but will hire in this skill from companies (such as Oxford Archaeologists). Conservators/Restorers seek to prevent the deterioration of objects and may sometimes be self-employed. Conservators tend to train and specialise in one class of object, e.g. paintings, and work closely with curators and designers. Many will have an interest in art, combined with a knowledge of chemistry, ICT or heritage techniques.
Administration & management
Administrator roles are vital in all organisations, and in the arts sector this role is a useful entry point. It can also lead to progression to more specialised work, including Marketing Officer, Fundraising (also known as Development), and ultimately to Senior Management positions. It is common to apply to other organisations for promotion opportunities. Other roles include IT, HR, Finance and Legal, although often people taking these roles will have prior experience and training outside the sector. A growing commercial area is in Business/Product Development: this involves generating strategies and actions which will create new profits for the organisation. In theatre it is often known as Audience Development, in museums it often refers to the Sales and Merchandising of the museum products and branded concession shops.
Education & outreach
Education/Outreach Officers link arts organisations with the public. Their work includes the preparation and delivery of programmes, events and resources for schools and other visitors. Many will have a background in education or community work and education roles often specify a preference for applicants with qualified teacher status (QTS), or a relevant academic specialism.