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Historic Sites Administrator


Have you ever visited a pioneer village where the guides are dressed in costume, performing tasks pioneers would have? What about a train museum, where the old trains are still taking visitors for rides? What about old factories, where you can go for tours, and listen to lectures on the history of industry?

These are special museums, known as historic sites. They are battle fields, homesteads, and factories that are still preserved in historic tradition. Unlike museums which display their collections in modern settings, historic sites try to recreate the whole feeling of the time period, in the hopes that presenting a collection of historical pieces in traditional surroundings will bring visitors that much closer to the time they are exploring.

Not everyone working at these historic sites is dressed up in costume, and not all of the rooms are historic representations. There is a group of people working in the back rooms and hidden offices on the site, ensuring that the site is functioning properly. Historic sites administrators are responsible for ensuring the visitors benefit from the natural and cultural heritage of the site. They work providing direction for the site overall, including programming, budget, and policy.

They may work in a team of administrators, or they may work alone, alongside curators and interpretation staff, depending on the size of the museum. They are responsible for a number of tasks. Specifically, they work on fundraising, connecting with media, developing budgets, hiring and firing staff, developing community outreach programs and educational events, writing newsletters, and ensuring that safety policies, public relations policies, and educational goals are being met. They may arrange for visiting speakers and experts, and communicate with other museums and historic sites regarding exhibits, programming, and visitors. They attend board meetings, secure funding from governments, and propose changes to staff and board members about everything from phone systems to mission statements. They are constantly working hard to keep up with the various tasks which are crucial to keeping a historic site going.

Historic sites administrators rarely work directly with the collections. They do, however, direct the people who interpret, present, and care for the collections and the historic buildings and grounds which house the collections. Historic sites administrators make sure there is enough money for the collection to grow and for programs to develop. Without historic sites administrators, the historic and cultural significance of these sites might be lost to us forever.
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Liberty University

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  Interests and Skills  
Historic sites administrators need to have good communication and people skills as well as good writing skills. Historic site administrators need an understanding of other cultures and traditions as it pertains to their work. They should have a love for art, history, and an understanding of various styles, genres, and time periods. Strong leadership and organizational skills are beneficial qualities, as are good judgment and the ability to solve problems creatively.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Review budget
  • Arrange for fundraising and grants
  • Meet with staff, media, and public to discuss policy changes and new exhibits
  • Oversee events
  • Maintain high quality of public programming
  • Attend board meetings
  • Historic sites administrators have a number of tasks. Each day will be spent in offices, outlining policy changes, developing programming strategies, looking for fundraising opportunities, and meeting with staff to discuss museum matters. Historic sites administrators might tour the museum floor to assess visitor response to exhibits and programs. They will spend very little time outside, but will be in offices, working on a computer or on the phone. They will travel to other museums, historic sites, and to conferences.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Historic sites administrators are employed by libraries, archives, museums, historic sites and non-retail art galleries.They may travel a few times a year, within the city and around the world, visiting other museums and attending conferences.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Historic sites administrators can move on to work as curators, interpreters or museum directors. They can also leave the field and apply their skills to non-profit organizations, government agencies, and private business. They can become journalists, writers, historians, and even open a gallery or auction house, depending on their past training and experience.

  Educational Paths  
Historic sites administrators will need at least a bachelor's degree in some combination of business administration, history, classical studies, education, and fine arts. Also beneficial to anyone looking to work as a historic sites administrator is a master's degree in museum studies or art conservation, as well as courses in computer science and some management training.
Volunteering in a museum environment, either as a guide, a front desk worker, or in the back offices with the administrative staff is a good way to gain experience in this field.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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