Career Profile: Museum Technicians and Conservators
Visiting a museum can be fun. Learning about history and different cultures through the exhibits is a good way of making the past real. Have you ever thought about the people who put the exhibits together? Museum technicians and conservators help to educate the public about the past. Working in this field can be a good career choice.
Putting together a museum exhibit involves more than just finding empty spaces in the building. Museum technicians and conservators might have to clean and repair objects first. For example, a piece of cloth that with a tear in it might need repair, or a picture might need cleaning. Outside experts might need to do this, but often the local museum technicians and conservators do the work themselves.
Normally, people in this field have a bachelor’s degree in a field like history, special collections, or natural history. This education qualifies them to work in museums, zoos, aquariums, and universities.
Students learn about the kinds of documents or artifacts to include in each collection and how to describe them to visitors. They learn about the kinds of information that they need to gather and what they need to include in what they give to the public. In high school, students can prepare by taking courses in history, geography, and related topics.
Suppose that a museum has an exhibit on South African history. The decisions on what artifacts to include would likely come from the curators and other museum officials. Still, the museum technicians and conservators could give advice on how to transport the materials and what to do with them when they arrive. Some materials have to be kept in a cool, dry spot to keep them from becoming moldy or falling apart. Technicians and conservators can help make those decisions.
With an exhibit on South Africa, another decision would be about translations. People in South Africa speak a language called Afrikaans, which is related to Dutch. Museum technicians and conservators might decide to translate entire documents or just give summaries of what they say. The same thing can happen for exhibits on all kinds of other subjects at museums and universities. At zoos and aquariums, technicians and conservators might help with exhibits that explain types of animals or how to help keep natural areas safe.
Museums, universities, and other places where technicians and conservators work often share their exhibits. This is where technicians and conservators can help. Some of their work involves organizing items for display or storage and giving numbers to each one. This helps in keeping track of the items and making sure that the don’t get lost along the way. Often, technicians and conservators photograph the items before they ship them to the new place. Technicians and conservators might help with research, lead tours, and teach courses.
Salaries for people in this field are normally between about $35,000 and $56,000, but it depends on the location and size of the institution. The work can sometimes be physically difficult, but usually it is a busy but otherwise fairly comfortable job. It might be the right one for you.
ALIS—Government of Alberta. “Museum Technician.” https://alis.alberta.ca/occinfo/occupations-in-alberta/occupation-profiles/museum-technician/.
CFNC.org. “Museum Technician & Conservator.” https://www1.cfnc.org/Plan/For_A_Career/Career_Profile/Career_Profile.aspx?id=ogUwN6XAP2BPAXKJTUU8a3TSWuRpAXAP3DPAXXAP3DPAX.
Government of Canada. “Museum Technician in Canada.” https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/summary-occupation/16240/ca.
Study.com. “Museum Technician: Career Information and Background.” https://study.com/articles/Museum_Technician_Career_Information_and_Requirements_for_Becoming_a_Museum_Technician.html