What Does a Museum Director Do?

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  • Written By: K. Testa
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2020
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A museum director is the administrative leader of a museum or similar institution, such as a zoo or historic site. He or she is often a professional curator as well. Depending on the size of the museum, he or she may have a variety of responsibilities, ranging from overseeing exhibits and programs to managing a budget. A professional in this position typically is required to supervise daily operations, and he or she might also engage in long-term projects, such as researching and writing. Since most museums operate as non-profit entities, a museum director's role is generally similar to any other non-profit director's job.

In many ways, a museum director is the visionary leader of an organization, designing and developing exhibits according to his or her particular area of expertise and the museum's subject matter. Typical duties also include negotiating with other organizations to borrow or purchase exhibits. As the museum's curator, the director oversees the set-up and display of exhibitions and the care and storage of pertinent items.

Along with supervising exhibits, a museum director has numerous administrative obligations. In general, he or she is responsible for managing the museum’s budget and for organizing any necessary fundraising activities. In addition, duties often include writing reports and grant proposals, frequently with the assistance of other staff members. Typically, his or her role also includes disseminating information via both internal and external forms of communication.


A museum director might be in charge of a small gallery, a large institution, or something in between. In a small museum, the director may be one of only a few employees. Regardless of the organization's size, the director usually oversees the staff, which can include regular employees as well as interns or volunteers. The director is obligated to ensure that programs run smoothly. In many cases, he or she reports to a Board of Directors or a Board of Trustees and is accountable for adhering to the museum's goals as outlined in its mission statement.

As the head of a museum, the director serves as its public representative, attending meetings, conventions and other related activities. He or she often writes scholarly journal articles, press releases and other informational items. Along with providing tours of the facility, the director often conducts research and coordinates educational programs.

The professional background of a museum director could be in one of several areas. Someone interested in a museum director job at a particular institution typically needs substantive knowledge of its various collections. In most cases, previous administrative experience is helpful as well.


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