Curriculum Vitae for Museum Professionals
Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors in October 2000.
The curriculum vitae conventions presented here are primarily for those beginning their museum and curatorial careers. Approaches to CV development can vary based on years in the field, area(s) of specialization, etc. For additioal information about the field, it is worth looking at the website of the American Association of Museums. The term “curriculum vitae” is commonly used, so it need not be underlined or italicized. The abbreviation “CV” is to be written in lower case and does not require periods. This format has been adopted by the Modern Language Association of America (MLA).
The format CAA recommends is the “long” CV, designed to serve as a framework on which to build. It takes into account the needs of both the museum professional and those reading the document. As your career progresses, you will undoubtedly need to add new categories or make changes in your format. Always remember to keep your CV up-to-date, just as you would your letters of reference.
A short CV may be required for grant applications, special events, business/commercial applications, etc. It is merely a condensed version of your curriculum vitae. It highlights your most significant professional achievements and should not be longer than two pages. Items such as service activities are usually left out.
Avoid making the CV complicated. Dramatic layouts and attempts to pad your CV will probably work against you. A beautifully constructed CV will not get you the job if your professional accomplishments are limited.
While it is important to avoid padding your CV, it is equally important that you do not leave out appropriate accomplishments. Be sure to list all of your degrees, not just the ones related to art history, museum studies, or studio art. In your efforts to keep your CV current, get into the habit of keeping a record or scrapbook of all your professional activities. Keep documentation of a lecture you gave, your conference participation, notes from publishers indicating the status of your scholarship, etc. You may eventually have to do this in some form for professional advancement. Your record keeping should prove the existence of everything in your curriculum vitae.
Organizing Your Application Materials
A carefully constructed cover letter is an essential element in a successful application. The letter should reflect an understanding of the institution to which you are applying, and your curriculum vitae should be shaped to fit that institution. Avoid reiterating your CV in the cover letter.
The applicant should always keep in mind that individuals outside the field are frequently involved with the search process. Museum board members, university administrators, etc., may play a role in hiring decisions. Given this reality, make the CV easy to follow.
While many museum professionals have education and professional backgrounds that are similar to those seeking traditional academic positions, there are distinct differences in the development of the CV.
Search-committee members and administrators may need to review hundreds of applications, so your CV must be easy on the eye. Select fonts and font sizes that facilitate reading. Use the white space well. Do not submit your CV on computer disk or CD-ROM unless it is specified.
Sample Curriculum Vitae (with Commentary)
List your most recent activities first (under each heading). Pagination after the first page is recommended. Use 10 pt. type or larger.
1. Name (in bold or large font)
Phone Number (s): Work, Home, Fax
Comments: Be sure to list addresses and phone numbers that are current. Make it easy to be reached.
PhD 1998 University of Kansas
Dissertation: “Nineteenth-Century European Art Is Pretty Neat” (advisor’s name optional)
MA 1994 Yale University
BA 1992 Swarthmore College (High Honors)
Area(s) of Specialization: Nineteenth-Century European Art
Comments: List all of the academic degrees you have earned (noting honors). Degrees outside the field of art history do not diminish your standing. There are some positions within the museum world where a studio background may be preferred (museum preparator, exhibition designer, conservator, etc.).
The inclusion of the title of your master’s thesis is optional.
If the PhD has not been completed, describe your current status (qualifying exam, course work finished, remaining time on dissertation, etc.).
3. Professional Experience (Curatorial, Research Appointments, etc.)
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas
Permanent collection: more than 17,000 works of art
Involved with mounting nine exhibitions
Teaching Assistant, Art History
University of Kansas
Fall and Spring (instructor of record each term)
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas
Duties included exhibition research, grant writing, coordinating docent program
Administrative Assistant, Sotheby’s New York, New York
Comments: Using the exact professional title/rank is very important for every position you list.
When listing a position such as “Curator,” one should include the size of the collection that was overseen, the number of exhibitions mounted while in the position, the amount of funds raised, and any additional items that are appropriate.
While it is understood that most graduate students will have had some kind of teaching assistantship, try to identify museum/gallery experiences when possible (internships, docent, research, etc.).
Additional activities that may be listed under this heading. Fund-raising (development), educational programs, community outreach, and grant-writing are among the activities worth listing, but your entries or descriptions should remain brief.
4. Grants/Fellowships/Awards (Awards/Honors, etc.)
University of Kansas Graduate Student Travel Grant (France)
University of Kansas Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching
University of Kansas, Graduate Fellowship
5. Scholarly and Professional Publications
Comments: The scholarly and professional publications produced by museum professionals may be viewed differently from those produced by academics. CAA recommends that you examine Curriculum Vitae for Art Historians: Recommended Conventions to see the differences in how scholarly products are listed. Some museum professionals hold an academic rank within the university community, so it may be necessary to make the appropriate adjustments in the listing of scholarly and professional production.
Books, catalogues, articles, and essays may be listed together.
Items such as book reviews, encyclopedia/dictionary entries, bibliographies, databases/websites, and similar items should be listed separately from the major publications listed above.
If an article has been translated or anthologized, one should list that information with the entry under the main citation (not as a separate entry).
A. Books, Catalogues, Articles, Essays completed
B. Book reviews
C. Encyclopedia/Dictionary Entries/Bibliographies/Databases/Websites/Instructional Programs
3. Extent of participation (curator, organizer, coordinator, etc.)
4. Catalogue (if it exists)
5. Travel venues
7. Professional and Community Outreach
Comments: Many museum professionals are actively involved with fundraising, development, educational programming, community outreach, etc. Identify activities where appropriate. If you have served on special committees, task forces, etc., beyond the standard committees within an institution or organization, those are worth listing as well.
8. Conferences/Presentations/Papers/Guest Lectures/Symposia/Colloquia/Exhibitions Juried/Exhibitions Judged
Comments: List only those professional conferences where you participated. Indicate the nature of your involvement (panel chair, delivered a paper, discussant, keynote or plenary speaker, professional workshop, significant organizational business, honoree). If you have made a specific presentation on multiple occasions, be sure to list the institutions, conferences, etc., under a single entry. Multiple listings of the same activity may be viewed as padding the CV.
Museum professionals are often asked to jury or judge exhibitions. If you were involved with selecting work for an exhibition, then you served as a juror. If you selected works for awards, purchase, etc., then you served as a judge.
9. Computer Skills, Audio Skills, Photographic/Slide Making Skills
Comments: At smaller institutions, individuals may have varied responsibilities. It is important that special technical abilities be listed.
10. Languages Read/Spoken
11. Professional Affiliations
Comments: List committee service within the organization(s)
Involvement with special programs or workshops
Listing references is optional. Be sure to seek permission from those serving as references before providing such a list
You may simply wish to state “References furnished upon request”
The manner in which you handle references can be viewed as a measure of your professionalism
Authors and Contributors
Submitted by CAA’s Professional Practices Committee: Michael Aurbach, Vanderbilt University (chair until August 2000); Irina Costache, Mount St. Mary’s College and California State University, Northridge (chair since August 2000); Frederick Asher, University of Minnesota; Ellen T. Baird, University of Illinois, Chicago (ex-officio); Bruce Bobick, State University of West Georgia; Marilyn Brown, Tulane University; Debra Drexler, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa; Linda C. Hults, College of Wooster; Gary Keown, Southeastern Louisiana University; Ellen Konowitz, Vanderbilt University; Dewey Mosby, Colgate University.
CAA’s Museum Committee, under the supervision of Marilyn Kushner (chair), also contributed to these conventions.