Let’s face it. Although you learn so much over the course of a museum studies master’s degree, there is still so much to learn. I am trying to compile a list of things that I learned outside of school that I think are necessary skills in today’s museum industry.
If you are reading this blog, chances are that you found us though social media networks such as twitter, or perhaps another blog that you frequent. That is awesome! Maybe you tweet for yourself/a museum/a museum consulting company/a historical society. Maybe you run your own blog. Whether you blog & tweet or just read them & follow them, you should be able to navigate social networks. Period. There is no excuse today not to have some knowledge of social networks. Museums need to keep up with technology, and therefore Museos do, too. (Here’s a guide to Twitter Basics in case you need it.)
Kirsten and I studied in England, which meant that our program taught us bids to city council, instead of the US equivalent of grant writing. Although there are many similarities, they are actually very specific processes. Therefore, to get my ducks in a row, I found a grant writing class at a local university and audited it. This option was very cost effective (as I didn’t need the credits) and I was able to learn everything I needed to know. Kirsten, on the other hand, learned grant writing on the job. She successfully researched and wrote several successful grants for her museum. Since you may end up being one of only a few employees at a small museum, you have to be able to do practically everything, and that involves fundraising. So...
3-Varied Computer Software:
I know there is a long list of computer software that Museos should know (please please please add any I forget into the comments!) but I would start with
- Adobe software such as Photoshop and Illustrator. That way, you can make and print media that looks professional at your museum.
- I also suggest basic web design (some HTML and CSS) so that you can stay involved in how your museum is portrayed online. I personally learned Dreamweaver using the free online tutorial on Adobe's website. There are so many free resources on the web to learn basic web design, and a quick look at google will help you find them. Remember: your museum may have a web team, and it may not. Better to be prepared.
- Office suite, obviously.
- A basic movie editing program (Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, iDVD) to make videos or slide shows of exhibits to show members or donors
- I would add museum cataloging programs (PastPerfect) and fundraising software (Raiser’s Edge) but I am sure that these are going to be specific to the institution. If anyone has any experience with learning these before you got a job, and if that helped, we’d appreciate the feedback!
4-People Management Skills:
It may be hard to gain this experience while not on the job. You will probably have to create a project in order to find people to manage. Not like we need to do any more unpaid work, Museos, but if you create a fun project, you can find yourself managing a group on your off hours. Personally, I organize and coordinate a social group that does happy hours, and I know friends who have started other social groups that exist to help raise money for nonprofits. Many museums have young members’ groups, and you could join these and take leadership positions in planning fun events. Whichever route you take, having management skills will always help you on a resume (and on the job).
As we all know, since the word “museum” can mean anything from a small historic house to a huge international tourist destination with millions of visitors a year, a Museo’s job can be incredibly varied. Although museums are really about the interaction between visitors and objects, we cannot ignore the way technology is creeping into everything that we do. Being able to interact with people in person and online is always helpful, and knowing how to get funding to keep your museum ticking will be priceless.
So Museos, what extra skills have you developed that helped you land a job or to improve your current work? Have there been any skills you wished you had learned prior to gaining a position? How did you develop these skills?
As always, we welcome any and all comments below.