Museum/gallery exhibition officer: job description

Museum/gallery exhibition officer: job description

Museum/gallery exhibition officers are responsible for planning and organising permanent or travelling exhibitions, publicity events and promotional activities such as talks and workshops.
Planning and organisational skills are key for museum and gallery exhibition officers.

What does a gallery exhibition officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Key duties of the job include:

  • planning programmes of special and permanent exhibitions
  • identifying and negotiating the acquisition of items for loan or purchase
  • create schedules for the installation of exhibits and help with tasks such as packing and framing
  • preparing and distributing publicity materials, exhibition catalogues and displays
  • managing staff and budgets
  • generating income via fundraising activities
  • writing plans and reports
  • liaising with schools, voluntary or local history groups and community organisations
  • working with contractors, consultants, conservators, archivists, technicians and curators
  • undertaking relevant research
  • helping to develop museum activities and to increase access.

Typical employers of exhibition officers

  • Public sector organisations
  • Local authorities
  • Museums
  • Galleries
  • Archaeological units
  • Universities
  • Private collectors
  • Independent museums and galleries

Some museums and galleries are national institutions that employ large teams of staff and are funded by central government, whereas others are smaller and rely largely on volunteers.

Depending on where you start your career, there may be limited prospects for promotion within a particular museum or gallery and you may need to be prepared to move to work in different institutions in order to progress. Fixed-term contracts of varying lengths are increasingly common in this area, and as opportunities for permanent, direct employment become fewer, museum and gallery officers are increasingly providing their services on a freelance or consultancy basis.

Jobs are advertised in local authority vacancy lists, newspapers and specialist publications including Museums Journal and the Times Educational Supplement. You can also find vacancies on the website of the Museums Association and on Museum Jobs, and on the websites of heritage organisations such as the National Trust and English Heritage.

Qualifications and training required

Although a degree is not always essential, it is unusual for applicants to be successful without a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate degree. Relevant subjects include archaeology, history, fine art, history of art and cultural studies. It could be helpful to have a degree that is related to the type of area you wish to work in; for example, a science degree if you want to work in a museum specialising in science.

Some museum staff undertake a postgraduate qualification in museum studies. It is possible to study for a qualification while working, though most do so beforehand.

A teaching qualification or experience of working with children in classrooms will be an advantage for applicants to museum education officer roles that involve working with children.

Relevant work experience is essential.

The Museums Association offers continuing professional development schemes for those working in the sector, as does Engage, the national network for gallery education, and GEM, an organisation that supports those working in heritage learning.  

Key skills for exhibition officers

  • Teamworking skills
  • Time and project management skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Genuine interest in art and culture
  • Administrative skills
  • IT skills
  • Creativity
  • Ability to manage volunteers and budgets.

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