Museum Technician Job Facts

Museum technicians (also known as registrars) work with the preservation, arrangement, and exhibition  of historical materials. This is highly technical work in many cases, requiring an expert knowledge of the materials and their care.

The work environment

Museum technicians have a hybrid role which involves customer contact, administrative areas, and technical roles. The areas of work are broad, and in some cases overlap:

Exhibitions:
Museum technicians work under the guidance of expert curators in most areas of arrangement and exhibition. This is sometimes delicate work, requiring care and patience handling valuable, irreplaceable materials.

Preservation:
The museum technician’s preservation role is based on preparation and basic maintenance of the materials. Museums operate a whole environment to protect their exhibits from oxidization, temperature variations and other processes which could damage them.

Assisting conservation teams:
Museum technicians also do some preparatory work for the advanced research and restoration of historical materials carried out be conservators.

Academic research facilities:
In some cases assist those professionals using the museum’s facilities for professional research. 

As well as the back room work, the museum technicians deal with the daily business of the museum’s public contact areas and inquiries. They may act as general tour guides, or as attendants in specific areas of the museum.

The type of museum, or the area in which the museum technician works, also affects the nature of the technician’s work. The technical knowledge bases can be quite different. In the preservation area, the museum technician may require expert knowledge and understanding of the materials.

The museum technician’s job involves ongoing responsibilities in their area of work. In a general historical museum, museum technicians are the people who do most of the actual work with the exhibits and museum stock. The preservation of exhibits has a more than purely functional role, as well as that of conservation. The exhibits are the museum’s “stock in trade”, some of which have been donated, others of which may have cost a lot of money.

The job may also involve some odd work environments. In a maritime museum, for example, most of the exhibits are either mounted in special exhibition alcoves, or in the case of actual ships and boats, in special docks. In this sort of job, the technician may spend a lot of time dealing with basic maintenance on board the exhibits. Rot, the effect of sun and sea or river water, marine organisms, and wear and tear are the primary issues for the technician.

In a natural history museum, the condition of the exhibits is particularly important, and can deteriorate severely through humidity, mold, or exposure to light. These exhibits can be reduced to dust by insects or just age. The exhibits require constant monitoring. The preservation methods of some natural museum exhibits, some of which may date from the 19th century, are often inadequate to deal with some of the modern hazards.

Wages:
$28,030- $66,060 depending on experience, position, and employer.

Hours:
Museum hours, usually standard business hours.

The career environment


Museum technicians tend to progress in a linear career path up to curator level. They may specialize in particular areas, or study to become conservators.

Note:
Advancement in the museum sector can involve specific employment situations and circumstances. Museum technicians have considerable scope to choose career tracks.