I am a (somewhat) recent interior design graduate (May 2001). I decided to pursue architecture, but ended up in art history. I’ll receive my bachelors this coming May. I am very interested in exhibition design, particularly for museums and art galleries. Do you know anyone in this field” What would you recommend as a first step to getting into this niche in the industry”
(submitted by Elizabeth B.)
Before attempting to break into exhibition design with little or no experience, one needs to make sure they have at least basic designs skills – drafting, space planning, an understanding of architecture, construction etc. I would then look for employment opportunities, including internships and volunteer opportunities, with large museums that have their own exhibition design and /or production departments. But since most museums don’t have their own departments, they often use outside design firms that specialize in exhibition design. These firms (of which several hundred exist by AAM’s count) are probably much more likely to have entry level jobs available and would be very good places to start a career.
Another approach may be to get an advanced degree in Museum Studies or even Exhibition Design. I’m aware of two universities that offer a masters in exhibition design – FIT in New York and the University of Arts in Philadelphia . These programs should allow one to develop skills unique to exhibition design and thus able to go after jobs that are more than just entry level.
Good jobs are few and far between. One really needs to be prepared to go where the jobs are. I would look for museums that are planning or undergoing expansions. Many times museums will have to hire extra help during these times (or hire an outside design firm) and even a temporary job is an opportunity to get experience.