Dragging this museum into the 20th century, what's my job title?
October 4, 2006 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Name-my-job-filter: I volunteer at my town's historical society and now I do everything except the financial parts. They recently realized that I'm not going away and asked me to come up with a job title. I'm also trying to get hired by someone who will pay me to do this...

At the last monthly meeting, the 'executive board' told me to come up with a job title, since I'd been coming to those for the last four months and I'd been showing up to work at least once weekly for a year. At the same meeting I managed to wrangle conference money from them and so I'm going to need a title that works among museum professionals as well.

So far, my responsibilities have included, besides cleaning, being the person who can climb ladders, and being stuck on the damn parade float:
Setting up the computer.
Setting up the PastPerfect database.
Renumbering the entire collection (in progress.)
Entering the collection into the new database (this is way more complicated than it sounds)
Assessing the collection for damage/whether we should keep it.
Creating a new set of protocols for what should be accepted into the collection.
Creating new paperwork for donators, based off other museums' forms.
Strongly suggesting appropriate ways to conserve particular objects in the collection.
(Re)designing exhibits, using only the inkjet printer and any scrap I find in the storage shed.
Giving a public talk/presentation (this was last minute and yesterday they told me they want me to repeat it...on my own dime...at area nursing homes.)

The only thing I'm not actually working with is the financial side; we have a slew of accountants who are long-time volunteers who do that stuff.

I'm finishing my MA in historical archaeology, but I don't have the kind of professional certification or training that museum professionals do, yet.

I don't have any friends in this field yet (that's what the conference is for), so I don't know what to call myself without making it sound like I'm in charge. Thanks in advance.
posted by cobaltnine to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are an Executive Director. It is a title for the chief employee/volunteer (i.e. non-Board member) of a non-profit.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2006

Our local place has someone called "Collections Manager.
posted by saffry at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2006

Mmm hmm, I like executive director... you are also kind of a curator too.
posted by Mister_A at 10:03 AM on October 4, 2006

I'm not a museum person, but my first thought on seeing your responsibilities was curator.
posted by COD at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2006

posted by delladlux at 10:04 AM on October 4, 2006

Development Specialist 1

There's always room for improvement....
posted by JJ86 at 10:19 AM on October 4, 2006

Here's a quick breakdown of the usual museum organizing structure - I've been working in museums for about 15 years now.

1. The Director/Executive Director is the boss of the whole place.
2. Development is specifically concerned with raising money. They are the people who write the grants, call the corporations, schmooze with the legislators, manage the membership, write the begging letters, etc., etc. Usually they do special events as well: museum rentals, openings, parties, although sometimes Marketing does that. Then there's Visitor Services, who run the gift shop and the front desk. They're often bundled into Marketing or Development, and Marketing sometimes doesn't even exist but is called part of Development.
3. Curatorial is in charge of the collection. They do the scholarship and organize the exhibitions. Some museums have Conservation departments in charge of taking care of the collections; sometimes, that's also part of Curatorial. The Registrar, who keeps track of the collection, handles the database and the loan forms and so on, is usually part of Curatorial, as are art handlers and exhibition designers and so forth and so on, depending on the size of the museum in question.
4. Education creates and puts on the programs associated with the museum, from lectures to school tours to Pre K story hour. They interpret the museum to the public, train the docents, write the tours, etc.
5. Communications/Marketing do the graphic design & put together the magazines and place the ads and write the PR and beg for coverage. They try to make stuff like cuneiform cylinder seals both exciting and understandable.
6. Operations is security and engineering and, sometimes, IT, or sometimes IT is in Communications.

Right now I'm working for a museum with a full time staff of four. There's an Educator, a Curator, a Director (well, actually at the moment there isn't, see MefiJobs ;-) ) and then there's me. I think Communications is the best fit, because it's vague enough where noone knows just exactly what I do, and I like that. On reading your job description though, if I was you, I'd call myself Curator or possibly even Chief Curator. You could go with Registrar, too.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:58 AM on October 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

General Manager. By mygothlaundry's breakdown, you're (3*2)+6.
posted by mkultra at 1:03 PM on October 4, 2006

you have my job - you're an archivist
posted by sporky at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2006

Although archivist is almost what I do, I don't actually handle any library materials - despite the utter lack of organization, there's a separate library, with separate funds and separate old people in charge.

'Curator' is actually taken. I think I agree that I am acting as one, but until she dies, I can't call myself that. I don't have the ability to throw things out, as yesterday's argument about the taxidermied trout shows. (And if any museum people would like to have a good cry, I can tell you some stories of her 'conservation' techniques.)

I think registrar is going to win, at least within the organization. I might try to swing 'assistant curator' and see how that goes.

Thanks all!
posted by cobaltnine at 2:01 PM on October 4, 2006

Registrar is a good title choice, if you ever want to jump to another institution. Registrars get all the best travel opportunities (when tour loan installations are required to be overseen by a staff member) and exist outside of most of the wretched politics of the curatorial and development departments.
posted by Scram at 6:46 PM on October 4, 2006

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