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For the Museum Job Hunter

Job hunting in the museum world can be tricky. Most of us are well aware that the field is competitive. Luckily we’ve spoken to a few recent graduates to get their tips and tricks for the job search.

  1. Know where to look and start looking early.

While in the second year of your program, graduation may seem a long way off. Many museums, especially government museums and historic sites, have a rather slow hiring process. Generally, the larger the museum, the longer the process. I recommend starting to look for jobs in January or February. The blog’s Job Roundup is a great resource, but be aware of where else you can look. We list several job boards at the top of each job roundup, including the New England Museum Association and the American Alliance of Museums. If you’re looking for a job in a specific state or region of the country, there are many local and regional professional associations that have their own job boards.

 While professional associations are great, don’t forget to check more general resources like LinkedIn or Indeed. Smaller museums often post on these sites and opportunities can appear here before on more specialized job boards. If you’re interested in positions with the federal government, USAjobs.gov is a great resource. The platform can be a bit tricky to use, but once you become familiar with it, you can largely automate your search. The site allows you to set up email alerts for new positions and I highly recommend using their resume builder.  

  1. Your CV is your best friend.

Crafting a strong CV or resume is critical when applying to jobs. Start by creating a header with your name and contact information. You can use this same header for your cover letters. CVs, or Curriculum Vitae, are generally used more in academic contexts, but I have found the format to be a great way to highlight any projects you’ve done as well as any articles you’ve published. If you haven’t completed many projects or publications, a resume may be a better choice. When describing your work, use the active voice and include specific outcomes whenever possible. A helpful tip is to work directly from your job or internship description(s) and add one according to what you remember. Using fancy templates on Canva can be fun and creative, but make sure your resume is readable and comprehensive. 

  1. Master the art of the cover letter.

No one really enjoys writing a cover letter, but cover letters are your best opportunity to argue why you’re the perfect fit for a job! You should only write one or two full cover letters if you’re applying to largely similar jobs. I find it helpful to organize cover letters by type of skill and then chronologically according to how you gained experience in that skill. Create a template for yourself and customize it to the requirements and duties of a specific job opportunity. Cover letters are often a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ situation where only the introduction and conclusion paragraphs change significantly. Address the letter to the hiring manager personally if you know their name, otherwise, “Dear Hiring Manager” is appropriate. Be sure to include what interested you about the position and institution!

  1. References are the name of the game.

Strong references are critical if you make it through the first round of interviews. Think carefully about who can best attest to the qualities most important to the job for which you are applying. It’s best to use a mix of professors and work/internship supervisors if possible. Be sure to give the people you are using as references plenty of notice! If you will be applying to a large number of jobs, sometimes it’s best to have a frank conversation and ask your references for blanket permission when applying for jobs. Be sure to share your CV/resume and cover letter with your references. This helps them prepare to answer questions about your work and experience.  

  1. Stay organized!

When you’re applying for twenty or more jobs, it can be easy to get them muddled. I recommend keeping a spreadsheet of all the jobs you’ve applied to, important information like pay and location, and the current status of your application. Be sure to update your spreadsheet regularly. I also recommend keeping copies of each cover letter in the same folder. This is optional, but it can be a life-saver to make a copy of the job description for your records. By the time you interview for some positions, the job announcement might be taken down and you’ll be wondering what the job was!

  1. Interviewing like a Pro

Interviewing is arguably the most important aspect of the job hunt. The key is preparation and to remember that you are also interviewing prospective employers. Start by prepping answers to common questions like

  • Describe yourself
  • What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
  • Describe a time you encountered a conflict

Also take the time to brainstorm industry-specific questions and any questions you have about the particular position. For example, when interviewing for a museum collections position, you might ask what the current goals for the collection are or what projects are ongoing. Asking the right questions can show that you are knowledgeable. Read the job description thoroughly and think of any questions you have about the position. 

When it comes time for the interview, dress professionally. If it’s a Zoom interview, be especially mindful of how what you’re wearing picks up on screen. I once was going to wear a very nice sweater for an interview, but realized that when viewed from only the chest up, the neckline made it look like a sweatshirt. Even though interviewers can only see part of you, dressing formally from head to toe will increase your confidence and put you in the right mindset for an interview. Pick an area for the interview where you are lit from the front and the background is neutral. Make sure any area visible is tidy. Take time before the interview to gather your materials. You should have the job description, your CV, and your cover letter readily available for reference. You should also have either a tab open or a notebook to take notes. Finally, I recommend joining the Zoom meeting at least five minutes early to avoid any last-minute technical issues. 

Don’t be discouraged if there are several rounds of interviews. Many institutions begin with a Zoom interview and will invite you to an in-person interview if you progress to the next round. It’s also not uncommon at larger institutions to have a screening interview with Human Resources first. This is usually a short interview where they determine you are who you say you are and have the experience you reported on your application. This is a tool for employers to narrow down the applicant pool for the hiring manager. 

  1. You have a job offer! Now what?

First of all, congratulations! The job market is competitive so getting an interview, much less an offer is an accomplishment. But remember, you do not have to take a job just because it was offered to you. Take time to make sure the position is the right fit for you. Will it help you achieve your career goals? Is the institutional culture the right fit for you? Does it pay what you need it to? These are all questions you should think about before accepting. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and the excitement of your first job offer. If it’s not your dream job, ask the hiring manager for a day or two to think about the offer. I also recommend setting up a meeting to ask for any clarification you need on duties, ask about benefits, and find out about workplace culture. 

This is also the time to negotiate your salary if necessary. Research what similar positions pay. The American Alliance of Museums National Museum Salary Survey is an amazing tool that breaks down by region, museum budget, and a number of other factors. Don’t turn your nose up at entry-level positions but do advocate to be paid what you’re worth with an advanced degree. Benefits are also an important part of compensation. Health insurance, dental, and retirement benefits might compensate for a lower salary.

Remember that finding a job takes time. Very few people have a job lined up immediately after graduation. Don’t get discouraged! Good luck job hunters!

What I am Taking to the Classroom

Hello dear readers, 


I have something to admit. Starting this fall I will be a traitor and am going back into classroom teaching. 


This is hardly a shocker to anyone who knows me – I came to this program after working with 6th graders for a year and somehow had fun. (I know, I’m a weirdo)  I have loved teaching since I was little, and have always been interested in having my own classroom. Ms. Harrison will be back in action and teaching English. 


You may be wondering – have the last two years been a waste? 


Absolutely not. This program has changed how I see and approach education in so many ways and I am so thankful to have done it. Without classes in lesson planning for the one time visit, I may never have developed a skill to make new information “sticky” or creating group dynamics on the fly. The past two years have fundamentally changed how I approach teaching and how I understand the American education system. It is a fraught, complicated, and well intentioned mess. 


So without further ado, here are the things I will be bringing to my classroom from this program:


  1. My classroom is a space to make mistakes and fail upwards. Everyone is learning and that can be uncomfortable. 
  2. You can close look at anything…even words and themes in a book 😉
  3. My classroom is a place where lessons are adaptable to the needs and learning styles of each student. (we love universal design!)
  4. My classroom is a space where learning is fun and activities and projects are engaging to students. I want my students to have options and choose how they want to show me what they know. 
  5. Grading is about mastery, not GPA. Everyone learns at a different pace, and progress looks different. Celebrate growth.
  6. Don’t take it too seriously. There are good days, and there are days where nothing goes to plan… or to both of your backup plans. It’s all about being flexible and adapting. 
  7. Hold space for tough conversations. They are going to be tense and uncomfortable, but it’s important to facilitate them with compassion and an open mind. 
  8. You are in charge and you know the plan – they don’t. You are a duck – graceful on the surface, but paddling like hell to keep it all going. If you mess up the order of things or leave something off the agenda, do it tomorrow. They won’t know. 
  9. Teens get a bad rap. They are not (always) trying to derail or undermine the adult in the room. Give them space and ways to lead. Maybe watch a TikTok or two – you may find yourself surprised by how emotionally intelligent these kids are. Plus if you call them out for making a reference to an inappropriate meme, you gain cool points. Be their uncle/aunt/older cousin. You are a sounding board for new ideas about who they are and what they want to be. You’ll keep them in line, but walk a few steps behind. Give them life advice and space to be silly. 


I’m sure there are many things I left off this list, but I am grateful to have taken a different path to becoming an educator. The past two years have been full of growth, and the next few weeks are going to be full of reflection on that. Also, if anyone has classroom tips (decorating, class management, how to stay on top of grading) please let me know. This duck is PADDLING. 

Museum Job Roundup 4/8/2024

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings and welcome submissions from the community. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:






Museum Job Roundup 3/11/2024

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings and welcome submissions from the community. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:






What’s With the Hidden Native American Exhibits?

Recently several major museums have taken the significant step of removing Native American cultural items from display. The American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology are a few of the big names acting [1]. It may seem sudden, but the situation has been years in the making. Museums are covering certain exhibits of Indigenous belongings in response to the new regulations for the Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The new regulations, which were published in December, are not without their controversies and complexities but they do address major loopholes in the previous regulations. 

I have previously written about NAGPRA and some of the challenges that accompany it. The Native American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act was passed into law in 1990 and provided a legal path for federally recognized tribes to reclaim ancestors, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. For thirty-three years the regulations, or rules, that institutions must follow to be in compliance, remained substantially unchanged. During those more than three decades, relatively little progress toward repatriation was made by most institutions. The new regulations, if nothing else, light a fire under certain institutions to work towards compliance. 

The previously proposed timeline for compliance was two years, which has been increased to five after public feedback from both institutions and tribes. Being realistic, it’s unlikely that all or even most, institutions will be compliant by 2029. As of 2023, less than 40% of institutions have repatriated the ancestors in their care as appropriate. The sheer size of museum collections along with the time and labor required for provenance research and consultation makes NAGPRA compliance a massive undertaking. Yet, it is significant that major players are taking the new regulations seriously. So why, if the path to repatriation is so long, are we seeing Native American cultural exhibits disappearing from public view?

It has to do with one of the major changes in the new NAGPRA regulations that introduced no small amount of frenzied activity behind the scenes in museums. The new regulations include a provision for “duty of care,” which requires that museums and institutions “Obtain free, prior, and informed consent from lineal descendants, Indian Tribes, or Native Hawaiian organizations prior to allowing any exhibition of, access to, or research on human remains or cultural items.”[1] Essentially, museums can no longer display items which fall under NAGPRA without prior consent of tribes who have a claim. 

The issue arises that many museums do not know which items may be subject to NAGPRA. They may have patchy provenance or even questionable identification of items currently on display. Many institutions are choosing to operate cautiously on the assumption that all or most items on display could be subject to NAGPRA. This assumption means that the continued display of these items would be a violation. As both museums in tribes embark on the consultation process, we will see revised versions of these exhibits return. I would hazard a guess of a timeline of about three to five years. Hopefully museums will take this opportunity to collaborate with tribes on more thoughtful and accurate representations of Native cultures. 

[1] “A Famed NYC Museum Is Closing 2 Native American Halls, and Others Have Taken Similar Steps,” CBS News, January 27, 2024, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/museum-of-natural-history-closes-native-american-halls-harvard/.

[2] 43 CFR § 10.1 (d)(3), https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-43/subtitle-A/part-10.

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