So, you’ve finally made it to that oh-so-perfect museum job or internship. Every component of working in a museum – collections management, educational programming, grant writing, etc. – requires certain skills. You probably know how to do your job fairly well. But are you aware of some of the hard-and-fast rules of working in a museum?
As it turns out, there are certain dos and don’ts you should be aware of before you start your first day. University of Central Florida professors Dr. Rosalind Beiler and Betty Sample share some they have learned. Make sure you keep these in mind as you begin your museum career!
- DO take everyone’s ideas into consideration. Be prepared to learn the significance of a new set of objects and ideas from professionals and volunteers with a special connection to and enthusiasm for the museum’s specific collection.
- DO approach each museum with an open mind. Expect to learn new skills and methods to interpret, preserve, and display new concepts, objects, and facts.
- DO treat objects and manuscripts in the museum’s collection with respect. Follow handling and use guidelines set by the museum management and staff, regardless of past experience with similar collections.
- DO learn about your museum’s place in the broader historiography. Museum management and staff are caretakers of a specific collection and story that illustrate part of the broad context of history.
- DO everything you can to learn what the job is about. Ask a lot of questions of the experts all around you.
- DON’T expect all museums to be the same. Although museums all strive to achieve certain museum standards, they all have different missions and goals and serve different audience.
- DON’T come in acting like you know everything. Even if you have learned about working in a museum as a part of a class, that does not mean you know how a particular organization works.
- DON’T assume everyone communicates the way you do. Different generations and individuals have unique ways of communicating. Find out how those around you prefer to have discussions, whether its via email, phone call, or face-to-face conversation.
- DON’T show up late. This might seem basic, but it’s good to keep in mind. Always behave in a professional manner!
- DON’T underestimate that high school job in retail or food service. Customer service skills can come in handy during an internship. You will be in dialogue with a number of different stakeholders – your politeness and problem-solving skills will be a terrific asset. Rely on them.