Museum Technician

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Museum Technician


Museum exhibits can consist of hundreds of pieces to display. There is a lot of work that goes into building displays, arranging the artifacts, writing information sheets, packing items for storage, the list of tasks is endless. This is why the work of museum technicians is so important to the success of an exhibit. Museum technicians assist curators, conservators and other museum staff in a variety of roles which contribute to the overall functioning of the museum.

Museum technicians' responsibilities and titles may vary, depending on the museum they work in. Some may specialize, and only work in exhibit design, building, and set up. This can include everything from painting spaces to interviewing experts. Others may work exclusively in the archives and storage rooms, cleaning and repairing artifacts. Some may do a number of technical duties on site. Highly trained technicians may supervise touring exhibits, including packing, unpacking, meeting with staff from other museums, and helping mount the exhibits at the places on the tour.

Museum technicians are important to the overall life of a museum. They look after the small details in each exhibit, storage space, and display case, which might otherwise go unnoticed.
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  Interests and Skills  
Museum technicians need a variety of skills. They should be enthusiastic with good communication and writing skills and a terrific memory . Museum technicians must have good manual dexterity when working with artifacts, restoring, packing, setting up or taking down. They must also have a mechanical aptitude to build and repair display cases and packing cases. Museum technicians also need a sensitivity to both the chemical composition, as well as the artistic qualities of an object. They need to have good eyesight, well as an eye for color, texture, and design. They typically have a love for art, history, and an understanding of various styles, genres, and time periods. Artistic, as well as scientific skills come in handy in this line of work.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Assist with exhibit design and preparation
  • Ensure that the necessary materials are available for assembling and maintaining exhibitions
  • Build display cases, packing cases and scale models of exhibits
  • Pack and unpack artifacts and objects for display
  • Supervise all aspects of touring exhibits
  • Assist in collections management (collecting, cataloguing, preserving and storing artifacts and objects)
  • Clean, repair and restore artifacts under the supervision of a conservator
  • A typical day for museum technicians involves many tasks. There is working with objects, as well as reporting about artifacts to curators, conservators in person and in writing. Museum technicians build, paint, clean, and deconstruct exhibits, care for the artifacts, and pack and unpack them for storage or for tours. They will not travel unless they are supervising a touring exhibit, or doing research outside of the museum.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Museum technicians work primarily indoors in museum galleries, storage spaces, archives, and labs, but may also need to do research outside or in libraries and other research facilities away from the museum. They may be required to lift heavy items, use hand and power tools, chemicals, sewing machines, computers, and x-ray machines, depending on their area of expertise.
  • Museum technicians are usually government employees, although they may find work with a private or non-profit museum. They will work in teams, but also may work alone. The hours will be long when an exhibit is being mounted or artifacts are being prepared.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Museum technicians can advance to administrative, supervisory, or managerial positions. Depending on their area of technical experience and training, they can become catalogers, conservators, and curators. They may also choose to become set designers or carpenters. With additional education and training museum technicians can become teachers, professors, or historians.

  Educational Paths  
The steps to becoming a museum technician depend on the type of technician you want to be. Some technicians, such as the ones involved in exhibit design and set up, need training and/or experience in carpentry, electronics, mechanical engineering, painting, sewing. However, in order to work with artifacts, technicians need to have taken courses in museum technology. These courses are available with community colleges, and cover things like artifact care, exhibit production, artifact documentation, and computer programs. University programs in museum studies, history, art history, anthropology, and social science are also good places to gain the academic knowledge which comes in handy when you work as a museum technician.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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