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Book Review: "Creative Careers in Museums"

Friday, August 8, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Katie Conrad
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“Creative Careers in Museums” is written for those of us who are emerging museum professionals (less than 10 years into their museum career), those who are interested in working in museums, and those transitioning to a new profession (possibly into a museum). The book is dedicated to the endeavor of trying to find “the best and brightest young people” and bring them into the museum world and to help those find their way and encouraging the ‘new.’

The book is composed of four parts: the definition/history/role of museums in the United States, museum careers (interviews), getting a job, and resources from the author.

For those who do not already know the history of museums or where they started, museums are basically the beginning of hoarding, but not to the degree seen on modern television shows that we’re familiar with. Burdick takes us from the Museum of Alexandria, to the Silk Road, to Europe, and in 1773, finally takes us home to the Charleston Library of South Carolina. I appreciated this historical overview. It seemed our country began with a love of history and culture, while at the same time, making history.

The second section is comprised entirely of interviews of museum professionals. Burdick asked professionals from all over the U.S. to write a short article about themselves, what they do, how they got there, and what their favorite part(s) of their job is. From the beginning most of those who were interviewed didn’t get their degree with the intention of working in a museum. Such as a man who built rockets for NASA, or a woman with a degree in environmental science and biology! It was reassuring to discover that museum pathways are not set in stone, meaning… you can have a degree that you wouldn’t think in a million years would help you in a museum, but it actually could! Find your niche!

On the other hand, I discovered that a lot of the museums these folks worked for were medium to large museums, and as a disclaimer, Burdick DOES say that these positions that the interviewees have differ in EVERY institution. Not every job is created equal, even if they’re called the same thing. Every museum is comprised of different pieces. For example, the museum I work for has one fulltime person (our fearless director), two part time folks, and me, a part-time grant funded person. On the other hand, 50 miles down the road are multiple museums with many full time people with more funding! Positions may require you to wear one or many different hats.

The interview section is divided into six segments in which Burdick has put the positions of a museum: collections/research, conservation/documentation, exhibiting/interpreting, education/outreach/visitors’ services, administration/support, and long range planning. This is a great breakdown of the different areas of a museum. Not only that, she gives a glossary of terms, breaking down each position of a museum and what that job generally entails.

The book ends with helpful tips and explanations on different parts of the hiring process, what should be on your resume, the cover letter, how to search for jobs, and where to search for jobs. This last part is very helpful, especially those who don’t know where to begin. I found some websites that Burdick listed very helpful.

I would definitely recommend this book to those with an interest in working in the museum community. It’s a great introduction to museums. The book explains the basics and mechanics of museums and you’re able to hear directly from those who work for and work with museums. This book instills in you an appreciation of what the museum community does and what these people take responsibility and care for.

Don’t forget to check out the Utah Emerging Museum Professionals group on Facebook here!



Katie Conrad is the Curatorial and Development Assistant at the Box Elder Museum of Art, History, and Nature.

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