Alan studied a degree in fine art at Staffordshire University, graduating in 2000.
Prior to my degree, I was a fully qualified joiner. After graduating, a combination of my interest in art and my joinery skills enabled me to get casual work as a technician at various art galleries and museums. I eventually secured a permanent position as a museum technician. I started to get more involved with the exhibition process and found I enjoyed it. It is challenging and rewarding - an ongoing learning process - and gives you the opportunity to be creative.
As I took on more responsibility, I began working closely with the exhibitions officer. I was offered the opportunity to project-manage exhibitions, which I leapt at. This gave me the confidence to apply for a full-time position. For the panel interview, I had to give a ten-minute presentation on how I would manage an exhibition. This was very nerve-racking, but once done, I could relax and answer the questions without any difficulty. It also helped that I was about to open an exhibition two weeks later and had plenty of visuals to show.
My role has developed in response to the broad job description that came with the application. The spec covered several roles including exhibitions officer, touring exhibitions officer, designer, CAD designer and technical manager. The role has been tailored to suit my abilities. On a personal level, I have gained confidence and greater responsibility and have become more autonomous.
My advice to anyone who is interested in museum work is to take every opportunity offered to gain experience and be proactive. There are different ways in. I was very fortunate to be able to work closely with an exhibitions officer who was very supportive. Be prepared to work hard. I was doing dual roles - technician and project manager - which meant late nights and working weekends. My degree taught me design skills, appreciation/understanding of art and objects, how to work to deadlines, presentation skills, how to write briefs, layout and exhibition hanging skills and time management skills. There has to be a good eye for design in this role, which I also developed during my degree.
In my current role, I project manage exhibitions, liaise with contractors, write design briefs, chair meetings, delegate tasks, problem solve, work up designs as part of a team, produce technical drawings for technicians, give team updates, produce risk assessments, and negotiate with staff. Although there is pressure to this job and there are setbacks, watching an exhibition develop and delivering it on time is a rewarding experience. I also enjoy the amount of creativity you are given to develop displays in new ways.
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