Heritage, museums and galleries

Museums and galleries

You don't just have to be passionate about art and objects to work in a museum or art gallery. The focus for museums and galleries is on placing their collections at the heart of the public realm and finding new ways to ensure that communities fully engage with collections.

There are approximately 290 museums and galleries in the North West region, receiving 8 million visitors a year, making this a key location for culture and heritage.

Gaining employment in museums and art galleries is highly competitive, and for some positions a postgraduate qualification is required. Many positions require extensive work experience and advertised posts are often short-term or fixed-term contracts. In addition to museums and galleries, there are also numerous heritage venues to explore.

There is no single route into this area of work. Successful candidates come from a range of backgrounds. Many will have voluntary experience and a postgraduate qualification, such as The University of Manchester's MA in Art Gallery and Museum. Some may have a PhD (in Museum Studies or collections discipline). Traineeships can offer another route into the profession.

You can find out about careers and jobs in museums and art galleries from the following websites:

You are unlikely to get a foot on the career ladder without some work experience, which usually means becoming a museum or gallery volunteer. Tips on volunteering:

  • Don't limit your efforts to national and large regional museums and galleries. They can sometimes be overwhelmed with requests for voluntary work. Also apply for smaller local museums as you are likely to get a broader range of experience.
  • Volunteer to support art festivals and cultural events taking place in your area.
  • Treat your request as if you are applying for paid work- find out about the museums you are interested in, visit them if you can and when you contact them explain why you want to volunteer for them.
  • Be honest about how much time you have available. You're more likely to find an opening if you are available for the same amount of time each week.
  • Remember that it's not the amount of experience you gain through volunteering, but what you make of it that will count in your favour. Volunteering is also a great way of building valuable contacts within the sector.

You can find out about volunteering opportunities in individual museums and art galleries' websites. You might also want to look here:

Look on organisations’ own websites for opportunities and connect with people working in the sector to receive advice. Try LinkedIn – use the alumni search function to find former students who are working in an area that interests you.

Archaeology and heritage

Archaeology is a popular profession but full time positions can be hard to find. Opportunities may be found in a number of areas:

  • In the construction industry, carrying out inspections and recovery work before building works commence.
  • For organisations such as The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA).
  • Charities such as The National Trust.

There are career opportunities in commercial archaelogy and in academia where there are lecturing or research roles that combine with practical digs. Others with a passion for archaeology may consider museum or other heritage related work where their knowledge can be useful to help bring history to life for the public. Heritage management roles are involved in the conservation of historic sites or buildings. Roles can be very varied including fundraising, managing conservation projects, running events and retail outlets.BAJR has produced a Guide to a Career in Archaeology.

Local archaeology groups

Archaeology resources

The University of Manchester’s Archaeology department

The department has some opportunities to take part in projects and gain valuable experience. The blogs below are written by University of Manchester students and outline their experiences of working on a project to conserve archaeological artefacts on campus:

If you are interested in volunteering with the University of Manchester’s Archaeology department, contact John Piprani, Archaeology Technician, via john.piprani@manchester.ac.uk.