Many students who visit Sovereign Hill tell us they would love to work in a museum when they grow up. What kinds of jobs can you do in a museum and how do you get one?
All museums in Australia employ people to do lots of different kinds of jobs, from curators who create beautiful exhibitions of artefacts (rooms creatively filled with artefacts that tell fascinating stories), to marketing managers, educators, cleaners, historians, volunteer coordinators and much more!However, Sovereign Hill is a bit different to most museums in Australia because it’s a living, or outdoor museum. This means it doesn’t really tell stories using artefacts behind glass cases. Instead, at Sovereign Hill we use costumed characters, homes and shops you can visit, and hands-on activities like gold panning to teach people about Australia’s gold rush history. This means Sovereign Hill employs a small village-worth of people with many different skills – and that’s because we practically are a small village! We have about 300 staff members and as many volunteers, some of whom you see dressed in 1850s fashion in the streets or in the shops, while others are hidden ‘behind-the-scenes’, working on things like museum management, visitor safety, advertising, website design and creating education resources.
Many people want a job in a museum because they’re such interesting places to work. This means each advertised museum job usually has lots of applicants, making it a very competitive industry. So, if you want to work in a museum, you need to dream big! There are members of staff at Sovereign Hill who began their museum careers as volunteers or work-experience students, and are now working as part of the professional museum team. So achieving your goal of working in a museum is definitely achievable.
If you would like to become a museum curator and manage/create museum exhibitions (like Bunjilaka at Melbourne Museum, for example), you need to be an organised and creative person. You should go to university to study ‘Museum Studies’ or ‘Cultural Heritage’, to a postgraduate or masters level (this means you will spend at least 4 years at university). Any of these qualifications may help you get a job in a museum as a curator.
If you would like to become a collections manager, which means you take care of the artefacts a museum has to look after (a little bit like a librarian), you need to be systematic and good at problem solving. You should get a similar qualification to a curator.
If you would like to become a museum educator, which means you create and teach lessons to school students visiting the museum, you need to be good at public speaking and time management. Most museum educators are qualified teachers, which, in Australia, means that you have been to university for at least 4 years. The Sovereign Hill Museums Association’s 11 educators (working across the Sovereign Hill Outdoor Museum and Narmbool) studied many different subjects at university; some are History teachers, while others are Science, Literature or P.E. teachers, which means they all bring different skills to the job.
Sovereign Hill also has a large number of talented interpreters who perform in the streets and in the Victoria Theatre. Many of these staff members are currently studying or have already completed a university degree in Drama, also known as Performing Arts. Sometimes it can be difficult for actors to find work, but if you get a job at an outdoor museum like Sovereign Hill, you could be interpreting history in costume every day – in the street, in pantomimes, and in conversations with visitors during which you have to stay in 1850s character (so, no talk of Minecraft, cars or telephones!). Some of our wonderful interpreters have been working here for more than 20 years, which means it’s probably safe to say that they really enjoy their jobs!
Some other jobs that you won’t find in too many other museums are the jobs of Sovereign Hill’s rare tradespeople. The living museum features technology from the 19th century, like boilers and steam engines, and therefore jobs that don’t exist in too many other places in 21st century Australia. If you want to be a blacksmith, 19th century steam engine mechanic, or driver of a horse-drawn coach, Sovereign Hill is the workplace for you! Most of these professionals were given on-the-job training here at Sovereign Hill, because it’s hard to learn these skills anywhere else. Similarly, we have a highly-skilled Costume Department, the members of which have university qualifications in Fashion or Textile Design, but they also learn a lot on-the-job because there aren’t too many places making Redcoat Soldier outfits, or 1850s bonnets these days.
Additionally, Sovereign Hill is lucky to have a team of very skilled builders and (modern) tradespeople, to keep our museum looking just like Ballarat did in the 1850s. We also have a large staff of hospitality workers and cleaners, receptionists and salespeople. Our Design Department makes all of our 19th and 21st century signs and advertising, and the Marketing Department manages visitors from all over the world and runs special events like ‘Winter Wonderlights’. We have people who design and care for our beautiful gardens, photographers who take your stylish 1850s photo, food technologists who create new lolly flavours, administrators, volunteer coordinators, bookings officers, historians, animal handlers, hotel managers, IT magicians, and horse-pooper-scoopers.There really is a job for everyone at Sovereign Hill!
If there’s a Sovereign Hill, Gold Museum or Narmbool job that you would like to know more about, let us know in the comments below.
Links and References
The Sovereign Hill Careers webpage: http://www.sovereignhill.com.au/sovereign-hill/careers-at-sovereign-hill/
A good, general overview of how to get a museum job: https://www.museumsassociation.org/careers/getting-a-first-job
Tips on securing that dream museum job: https://www.thoughtco.com/getting-a-job-in-the-museum-world-182416
Deakin University’s popular master’s degree in Cultural Heritage: http://www.deakin.edu.au/course/master-cultural-heritage
Keep an eye on advertised jobs in museums, galleries etc. here: https://www.museumsaustralia.org.au/positions-vacant
Information from Museums Victoria about getting a job at the Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum, Bunjilaka, Science Works or the Royal Exhibition Building: https://museumvictoria.com.au/about/work-opportunities/employment/
Information about jobs at the Australian Museum in Sydney: https://australianmuseum.net.au/working-at-the-australian-museum
Job opportunities webpage at Ballarat’s MADE (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka): http://made.org/about/careers/
The National Museum of Australia (Canberra) employment webpage: http://www.nma.gov.au/about_us/employment
The MASS (Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in Sydney – which oversees the management of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Observatory and the Museums Discovery Centre) employment webpage: https://maas.museum/careers/
The Australian National Maritime Museum (Sydney) employment webpage: http://www.anmm.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are/work-with-us
The Australian War Memorial (Canberra) employment webpage: https://www.awm.gov.au/get-involved/work-or-volunteer/employment
A thorough ‘How To’ for museum job applications: http://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/industry/museum-careers-advice-apply-jobs/