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How Do I Become an Exhibit Designer?

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  • Written By: D. Nelson
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Exhibit designers usually work for museums and are responsible for deciding how works are shown and might even contribute to the actual construction of some exhibits. The exact duties of exhibit designers depend largely on their employers and their skills. For instance, a person who works for an art museum might have curatorial duties, meaning that he or she is responsible for choosing the works that are shown in an exhibit, and an exhibit designer in a natural science museum might decide only how objects are shown, while scientists choose which works are most important. To become an exhibit designer, you first step should be to get a college degree in a field in which you would like to work. For example, if you want to become an exhibit designer for an art museum, you should earn a degree in art history before you begin to gain the necessary work experience in this field.

In some cases, it might be necessary also to earn a graduate degree. If you would like to become an exhibit designer in a highly respected natural science museum, for instance, it might be essential that you have a master's degree in a field such as archeology. In these cases, you might perform curatorial duties and work with top scholars to choose exhibit pieces. You might even help write exhibit essays, which aim to state the importance of individual exhibits.

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People who would like to work in art museums and galleries commonly earn art history degrees. A person who wants to become an exhibit designer in this context also could pursue a museum or curatorial certificate. This kind of certification shows that individuals who have earned it are familiar with curatorial operations and might understand the basics of working with space and light to get the best results. These programs sometimes are part of larger art or art history programs, and they often are offered by museums.

After you earn the necessary academic credentials, you should plan on working in entry-level positions. A person who wants to become an exhibit designer can benefit from helping established designers and curators set up exhibits. This is the best way to learn about common practices and common mistakes. By spending several years helping established museum professionals, you also can earn good references that could help you earn better positions in the future.

When you are composing your résumé, it is important that you demonstrate your knowledge of a specific field. For instance, if you want to become an exhibit designer for a 19th-century art gallery, write about any experience that you have studying this art. Write about your specific interests and how you have the ability to show the art in new, illuminating ways.

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