Careers in museums #1 the basics

At the Open Days last week I had a lot of questions about careers in museums. We always get involved at our University’s careers fairs and we have even held our own Careers Event in the past (that’s where the photos are from). A couple of years ago I got a fellowship grant from the Center for Career Management Skills and a consultant Janet Bell came in to help us create some workshops and resources for our students. This being the digital age I thought I would make some of this information available online.

Careers Day 1

Careers Day 1

First of all a disclaimer. As we are based in the UK I am going to focus on the situation in Britain. I am also going to focus on advice for getting museum jobs. There are some really interesting and important debates going on regarding the impact of museum studies courses on the sector, diversifying the workforce and unpaid internships. I will discuss some of these issues but my main aim is to provide advice for those who are trying to break into the sector.


Careers Day 2

There are already some great resources on the web. The Museums Association careers page is a good place to start and it’s pretty comprehensive. The Museums Association is a membership organisation for museum professionals but you can join at a low rate if you are a student or volunteer. You get a monthly copy of the Museums Journal and free/discounted entry into many museums and exhibitions. Tip: Before going into an interview in the UK have a flick through recent copies of Museum Journal and search for your potential workplace in the Journal via the website.

The other site that I always send people to is the University of Leicester’s Museum Studies Job Desk. That is where most people in the UK search and advertise. It includes information on internships and voluntary opportunities and even lists international job opportunities. Those two sites will give you a lot to be getting on with and I will talk about voluntary work in the next post.


Open Days

The open days were fun. I had two great students Georgia and Helen helping me out in the Ure Museum. We had a handling collection out and an iPad with apps designed by students and local schools


Nearly everybody I invited to handle the objects said ‘I am clumsy I can’t be trusted with objects’. However, those who were brave enough to put on the white gloves were blown away by the age of the objects they were interacting with (2500 years for some of them). We even had a visit from our Twitter-bear Stu who was going around campus being photographed in different locations. Trying to get a tiny cuddly toy bear look like it is handling an object while protecting the object is really tough.


We got a mix of people coming to talk. Some were just generally interested in the study of the past and looking at different programme options. They were amazed by the idea that you could have a museum at the end of your departmental corridor. Others were hunting out courses which offered museum studies teaching and experience. It made me realise how lucky we were to have the Ure Museum. Many university departmental collections have lost their geographical and intellectual connection to their once home discipline. Remembering this fact made me grateful for the foresight of the curators who fought to build this resource and keep it a part of teaching and research in the University.

Update and Open Days

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

I’ve been away for 2 weeks visiting the Yorkshire Dales, Scotland and Wales. This is almost unprecedented but I didn’t visit a single museum. However, I did visit lots of heritage sites such as the beautiful Bolton Abbey with its ‘picturesque if you’re looking at them/ terrifying if your actually on them’ stepping stones. I also visited White Scar Cave, Ingleton Waterfalls and took a boat out on Lake Windermere.

Lake Windermere

Lake Windermere

The natural beauty theme continued in Scotland with Loch Lomond and then again in Wales with Puzzlewood. All it takes is a bit of sunshine to remind you how beautiful the British countryside is and how hard it must be for open air attractions when the weather is not on their side. With that in mind I drove back to Reading along a motorway which looked like a river.



This week has been all systems go getting ready for our University of Reading Open Days. I am going to be situated in the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology with a handling collection to give people a real taster of what we offer here. I was in the library and ran into somebody from AACT/ iMuse demonstrating some new Ure Museum apps which were developed in collaboration with University of Reading students and local schools. I got a bit addicted to ‘Splat Medusa’ and I’m borrowing the iPad for a demo at the Open Day. I also updated the cases in the Archaeology Department for the Open Days which was made easier by getting the Lyminge Excavation Project gang to take over a case.

Archaeology case Lyminge excavation objects

Archaeology Department case Lyminge excavation objects

In other news I saw Pompeii Live at the local cinema. I enjoyed it but it set me thinking about the challenges of making an exhibition into ‘a live cinema experience’ and I’m going to post once I’ve done a bit more research. Oh and amongst all of this I was reminded that I had website training and had agreed to be interviewed for our museum blog Our Country Lives. I’d love to go and put my feet up before the Open Days kick off tomorrow but I found out about an intriguing theatre performance around the theme of objects, memories and child refugees ‘Surviving Objects’ so I ‘m off to that tonight. I will try to post something on that and the Open Days next week.