The primary purpose of a museum is to preserve and promote artifacts that represent human history across the globe. Artifacts represent the knowledge, understanding, and beauty of diverse cultures. Ultimately, museums exist to educate the public and foster the appreciation of these diverse collections. There are two basic types of museums: historical and contemporary. In historic museums, artifacts are the tangible representation of human history; contemporary museums focus on contemporary art and design.
In contemporary museums, the education staff serves as a bridge between the public and the exhibits. The exhibits themselves impart knowledge to visitors, but only a fraction of those who visit the museum will spend the time to read every panel and watch every video. Thus, an effective museum education program can make the difference between a free-for-all or a productive and educational experience for every visitor. Here are some of the important roles of museum education staff
Visitor Services Associate: The Visitor Services Associate (VSA) is responsible for managing the front-desk functions of the museum and performing additional duties, such as processing admissions, answering the main telephone line, and supporting the Museum’s events. While the duties of the Visitor Services Associate are varied, the job requires a consistent dedication to providing exemplary customer service. Typical responsibilities include processing admissions, answering the main phone line, selling memberships, and supporting museum events. During COVID-19 pandemic, this position has additional responsibility.
Among the many job opportunities in the museum industry, tour guides are one of the most essential. These professionals need to be highly educated in the particular field of focus to be able to engage visitors. They must be able to manage their time well, and must be flexible enough to work around a number of groups of tour guests. Additionally, they must be excellent communicators, with the ability to speak effectively in front of a variety of demographics.
Although a museum worker’s job description may be varied, the most common job title is curator. Most curatorial positions require a master’s degree and internship experience. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree can also pursue this career. The level of education and training required to be a curator depends on the size of the museum. For example, a small local museum might require one employee to perform all functions, while a large museum may have several different staff members focusing on a particular aspect of museum operations.
While the term “museum” originates from the Latin word museion, the plural term is “musea.” It refers to a building dedicated to the Muses or a place for study or art. Ptolemies of Egypt created the mouseion in the early third century BCE. In the Alexandria Library, they built an institute for research and philosophy. These early museums were quite similar to their European counterparts.
Early museums were primarily private collections of wealthy individuals and institutions. They displayed rare objects in cabinets of curiosities and wonder rooms, but public access to these collections was limited. The British Museum opened to the public in 1759 and contained Sir Isaac Sloan’s personal art collection. However, it was not until the eighteenth century that specialized art museums began to emerge in the modern world. In fact, the Uffizi Gallery was open to the public upon request and opened in 1765.