Art History, Museum & Public History Careers

The fields of art history, museum studies and public history encompass a variety of professional opportunities: museum studies, heritage tourism, oral history, nonprofit management, community activism, art, popular culture, the business world, and more. A growing global population continues to increase museum attendance, providing more and more opportunities for museum professionals.  

  • According to the Association of American Museums, “860 million people visit the 17,500 museums in the United States each year, surpassing attendance records at sport events and theme parks combined.”
  • According to a 2009 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of curators, museum technicians, and conservators is projected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Public interest in science, art, and history will continue to spur demand for curators, museum technicians, and conservators. Applicants should expect strong competition for jobs.”

Career Resources

  • Employment Opportunities

    Museums and Historic Sites

    • Archivist
    • Board of managers, board of trustees
    • Collections manager
    • Conservator
    • Curator
    • Development manager
    • Exhibit production
    • Financial manager
    • Gift shop manager
    • Historian
    • Librarian
    • Manager, director
    • Museum educator (* often requires an education degree)
    • Oral historian
    • Preservationist
    • Security administrator or officer
    • Site manager
    • Tour guide
    • Volunteer manager

    Related Professions

    • Academic/professional historian
    • Administration
    • Antique Dealers
    • Architect, designer
    • Art Galleries
    • Artist, musician
    • Auctioneering and auction houses
    • Business
    • Compliance officer
    • Contractor
    • Government, state, and city employment
    • Grant writer
    • Heritage tourism, tourism
    • Insurance and appraisal firms
    • Journalism
    • Lawyer
    • Libraries, special collections, archives
    • Magazines and newspapers
    • Marketing, sales
    • National park service
    • Non-profit organizations
    • Politics
    • Public relations
    • Publishing Houses
    • Restoration Firms
    • Television, movies, commercials
    • Website manager, computer applications, data manager
    • Writer, author
  • Local Museums & Historical Agencies

  • Links & Organizations

    • American Alliance of Museums, http://www.aam-us.org/.
    • American Association for State and Local History, http://aaslh.org.
    • Association of Public Historians of New York State, http://aphnys.org/.
    • Buffalo, New York, Civil Service: http://www.ci.buffalo.ny.us/Home/City_Departments/Civil_Service
    • Global Museum, www.globalmuseum.org.
    • History Matters, George Mason University. http://www.history-matters.com/.
    • History Net, www.h-net.org/.
    • Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/index.html.
    • Listserve: H-PUBLIC (subscribe at www.ncph.org)
    • Listserve: MUSEUM-L
    • Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums. http://www.midatlanticmuseums.org/.
    • Museum Association of New York. http://www.manyonline.org.
    • Museum Employment Resource Center, www.museum-employment.com.
    • Museum Professionals, www.jobs.museumprofessionals.org.
    • National Council on Public History, www.ncph.org.
    • National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/index.htm.
    • National Trust for Historic Preservation. http://www.preservationnation.org/.
    • New York State Historical Association. http://www.nysha.org/.
    • New York State Jobs: http://www.labor.ny.gov/jobs/regional.shtm
    • Niagara Falls, New York, Civil Service: http://www.niagarafallsusa.org/Hr_Exams.cfm
    • Public History Resource Center. http://www.publichistory.org/.
    • Smithsonian Institution Internships. http://intern.si.edu/.
    • Smithsonian Institution: Information for Museum Professionals and Scholars: http://museumstudies.si.edu/courses.html.
    • United States Government Jobs: https://www.usajobs.gov
  • Ethical Resources for the Profession

    • American Alliance of Museums: http://www.aam-us.org/museumresources/ethics/coe.cfm
    • Harvard Law: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/martin/art_law/museum_ethics.html
    • International Council of Museums: http://icom.museum/ethics.html
  • "What can I do with this major?"

  • Bibliography & Organizations

    • Alexander, Mary, Museums in Motion: An Introduction to the History and Functions of Museums.  Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2007.
    • Ambrose, Timothy, Museum Basics (The Heritage: Care – Preservation).  New York: Routledge, 2006. 
    • American Association of Museums, http://www.aam-us.org/.
    • American Association for State and Local History, http://aaslh.org
    • Anderson, Gail, Reinventing the Museum, Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Paradigm Shift. Lanham, Maryland: Altamira Press, 2004.
    • Association of Public Historians of New York State, http://aphnys.org/.
    • Bachmann, Konstanze, Conservation Concerns: A Guide for Collectors.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 2007.
    • Burcaw, G. Ellis, Introduction to Museum Work. Third edition. Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 1997. See the bibliography section, pp. 226-234.  
    • Buntinx, Gustavo, et. al., Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations
    • Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2007.  
    • Cantor, Jay E., et. al., Winterthur. Winterthur, Delaware: Published by Harry N. Abrams, 1985.  
    • Carbonell, Bettina, Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.
    • Falk, John H., Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. American Association for State and Local History Book Series, Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, Pub., Inc., 2000.  
    • Fischer, Matthew, To Be a Registrar. Bloomington, Indiana: IUniverse, Inc., 2007.  
    • Gardner, James B., and Lapaglia, Peter S., Public History: Essays from the Field (Public History Series). Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 2004.  
    • Genoways, Hugh H., Museum Administration: An Introduction. American Association for State and Local History; Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2003.  
    • Global Museum, www.globalmuseum.org.
    • Hamilton, Paula, and Shopes, Linda, Oral History and Public Memories (Critical Perspectives…). Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008.  
    • Hatchfield, Pamela, Pollutants in the Museum Environment.  London and Los Angeles: Archetype Books, 2007.
    • Hein, George E., Learning in the Museum (Museum Meanings).  Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, 1998.
    • History Matters, George Mason University. http://www.history-matters.com/.
    • History Net, www.h-net.org/jobs.
    • Horton, James Oliver, and Horton, Lois E., Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
    • Johnson, Anna, The Museum Educator’s Manual: Educators Share Successful  Techniques. American Association for State and Local History; Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2009. 
    • Kotler, Neil G., et. al., Museum Marketing and Strategy: Designing Missions, Building Audiences, Generating Revenue and Resources.   San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.
    • Landrey, Gregory J., The Winterthur Guide to Caring for Your Collection. Winterthur, Delaware: Winterthur, 2000.  
    • Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/index.html.
    • Listserve: MUSEUM-L
    • Listserve: H-PUBLIC (subscribe at www.ncph.org)
    • Lord, Gail Dexter, and Lord, Barry, The Manual of Museum Exhibitions.  Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2001.
    • --------, The Manual of Museum Planning. Second edition.   Oslo, Norway: Unipub, 1992.
    • Malaro, Marie C., A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections.   2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 1998.
    • Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums. http://www.midatlanticmuseums.org/.
    • Museum Association of New York. http://www.manyonline.org.
    • Museum Employment Resource Center, www.museum-employment.com.
    • Museum Professionals, www.jobs.museumprofessionals.org.
    • National Council on Public History, www.ncph.org.
    • National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/index.htm.
    • National Trust for Historic Preservation. http://www.preservationnation.org/.
    • New York State Historical Association. http://www.nysha.org/.
    • The Public Historian. Journal. University of California Press. http://www.ucpressjournals.com/journal.asp?j=tph.
    • Public History Resource Center. http://www.publichistory.org/.
    • Schlatter, N. Elizabeth, Museum Careers: A Practical Guide for Novices and Students. Walnut Creek, California: Left Coast Press, 2008.  
    • Serrell, Beverly, Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach.   Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 1996.
    • Smithsonian Institution Internships. http://intern.si.edu/.
    • Smithsonian Institution: Information for Museum Professionals and Scholars: http://museumstudies.si.edu/courses.html.
    • Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
    • Weil, Stephen, Making Museums Matter.  Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian, 2007. 

NU Related Resources

Career Contacts

The following faculty, alumni, and staff have volunteered to speak with students about possible careers. To volunteer or update your contact information, Contact Us.