Curriculum Vitae for Museum Professionals
Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors in October 2000 and revised February 17, 2019.
The curriculum vitae conventions presented here are primarily for those seeking employment in curatorial, educational, exhibition-related, and administrative positions in museums. For additional information about the museum field, it is worth looking at the American Alliance of Museums website. Additional general information about writing a CV is available at the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Museum employment is increasingly competitive, with institutions seeking candidates with advanced degrees and a record of scholarly or other art-world accomplishments, as well as museum-work experience. For this reason, CAA recommends a “long” CV format: typically three or more pages to present the applicant’s achievements in art history, art, or other art world fields, and evidence of professional experience in museums or comparable art institutions. The measure of a strong CV, however, is not its length, since it is important that each item listed on the CV be concise.
While many museum professionals have similar educational and professional backgrounds to those seeking traditional academic positions, there are distinct differences in the development of a CV for museum professionals. A museum-oriented CV should record the applicant’s accomplishments in research, publishing, creative production, and teaching in the applicant’s area(s) of specialization as well as highlight management and leadership skills and the scope of the applicant’s projects, exhibitions, or programs. The CV should document scholarly, research, and/or creative pursuits alongside any tangible products that are meaningful to the museum field. Approaches to the development of a CV will vary based on number of years in the field, area(s) of specialization, and other cumulative experiences. As the applicant’s career progresses, the applicant will undoubtedly need to make changes in format or add new sections—for example, “New Media,” “Blogs,” or “Videos,” as appropriate. The CV, along with current references, should be kept up to date.
A “short” CV—a condensed version of the curriculum vitae—may be required for applications for grants and special programs or for business/commercial positions. It highlights the applicant’s most significant professional achievements. In condensing the CV, the applicant can omit sections such as professional service activities or professional affiliations. One can also shorten the descriptions under professional experiences. The applicant can condense sections for publications, conference papers, exhibitions, awards and honors, and other marks of achievement by including the word “Selected” in the section header, and then listing only the most recent, relevant, or prestigious items in these sections.
The CV should present the applicant’s background while also matching desired job qualifications. While it is important to avoid padding the CV, it is equally important that it does not leave out appropriate accomplishments. Be sure to list all degrees and credentials, not just the ones related to art history, museum studies, or studio art. Items should include descriptive words to qualify the applicant’s management skills, and, where appropriate, for museum projects in which the applicant participated, include details such as job role and the size of budgets or grants. For exhibitions in which the applicant had a role in planning, such metrics as square footage, nature of material presented, checklist overview, and attendance numbers should be included.
In efforts to keep the CV current, the applicant should get into the habit of keeping files of all professional activities and keep documentation of lectures and conference papers, awards, published reviews, etc., in a portfolio of materials related to their projects. The applicant may need to provide employers with such materials in a job application, or share them in an interview, and may eventually need to present a portfolio in some form for career advancement. Record- keeping should prove the existence of everything in the CV. In recent years, hiring committees have begun requesting website URLs that document an applicant’s work. In pursuit of museum employment, to complement the CV, the applicant may want to consider creating a website that visually and collectively presents the applicant’s professional accomplishments, including exhibitions, publications, programs, awards, press releases, news articles, and so forth.
Organizing 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 the applicant is applying, describe what the applicant will contribute to the position, and highlight the specific background and skills from the CV that are most relevant to the position. The applicant should avoid wholly reiterating the CV in the cover letter. The term “curriculum vitae” does not need to be underlined or italicized, and the abbreviation “CV” does not require periods.
The applicant should keep in mind that individuals outside the museum field may be involved in the search process and that selection is highly competitive. Board members, university administrators, and others may play a role in hiring decisions, and search committees may review more than a hundred applications for one position. A CV can be made graphically clear—for example, by using section headings, blocking and indentation, and bolded text for category headers. Selecting easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial, and font sizes from 10 to 16 points, as appropriate, facilitate readings. Using the white space well is also important. The applicant’s name should be on each page and page numbers after the first page. If not otherwise specified in a job announcement, it is acceptable to submit the CV, cover letter, and other application materials digitally as PDFs to preserve the document formatting.
While there is not one standard format for the CV, there are sections that should be included. Applicants should gather and review various samples of CV layouts and use their judgment to tailor the sections (and section headers) and the placement of items within sections in order to best present scholarly and professional work. Offered below is a guideline of the main sections and a common sequence that the applicant may choose to follow. The most recent activities should be listed first under each section.
- Name and Contact Information
The applicant’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email address should be included. If the applicant has a personal website, include the URL here as well.
The applicant should list all the academic degrees earned, noting honors as appropriate, along with the name of the institution and year the degree was earned. If the degree is still in progress, the applicant should list the date it will be completed and include the word “expected.” This section should include the title of the applicant’s dissertation and master’s thesis. Applicants should list the institutions, dates, and credentials for other professional studies, such as certificates, programs, or courses completed.
Degrees outside the field of art history or studio art do not diminish one’s standing. For example, there are some positions within the museum world where a studio background may be more pertinent (e.g., museum preparator, exhibition designer).
- Professional Experience or Employment
Applicants should list professional work experiences using the exact professional title held, name of institution, and dates the position was held for each. The applicant can include internships, research, and adjunct appointments.
When listing a position such as “Curator,” the applicant should include details that will convey the scope of the work projects in the position. The size of the collection that the applicant oversaw, the number of exhibitions mounted, the amount of funds raised, acquisitions made, and any additional appropriate items should be included. For exhibitions, the applicant can include attendance, square footage, and budget numbers.
Some museum professionals hold an academic rank and teaching appointments within a university while also serving as museum staff, so it may be necessary to make the appropriate adjustments in the listings. Using the exact professional title/rank is very important for every teaching position listed. There are distinct differences between titles such as Instructor, Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, Visiting Assistant Professor, etc. If the applicant has extensive overlapping teaching and museum experiences, the applicant may wish to create a separate section for “Teaching Experience.” CAA recommends examining Curriculum Vitae for Art Historians: Recommended Conventions for more information about listing academic positions.
- Scholarly and Professional Publications (Consult the Chicago Manual of Style for entries)
Subsections should be listed: Books, Articles, Exhibition Catalogues, Book and Exhibition Reviews, Encyclopedia and Dictionary Entries, Bibliographies/Databases/Websites/Instructional Programs, Exhibition Labels, Other (e.g., Blogs, Visitor Guides, or Educational Materials), and Publications in Progress.
The list of scholarly and professional publications produced by museum professionals, unlike a purely academic listing, may include exhibition or museum related materials. CAA recommends examining Curriculum Vitae for Art Historians: Recommended Conventions or Visual Artist Curriculum Vitae: Recommended Conventions to see how scholarly products or other relevant accomplishments are listed.
If the applicant has also translated or anthologized an article, list that information with the main entry under one citation (not as a separate entry).
It is acceptable to include hyperlinks to PDFs of publications.
- Exhibitions (i.e., those the applicant organized and/or helped present)
The exhibition title, venue/institution, location, role (e.g., curator, cocurator, educator, designer), dates of exhibition should be listed as well as travel venues and catalogue, if applicable.
- Conferences/Presentations/Papers Delivered/Guest Lectures/Symposia/Colloquia/Exhibitions Juried/Exhibitions Judged (The applicant should choose appropriate headers depending on their experience)
Professional conferences where the applicant presented should be listed as well as the nature of the applicant’s involvement (e.g., panel chair, presenter, discussant, keynote or plenary speaker, professional workshop organizer, significant organizational business, honoree).
If the applicant has made the same presentation on multiple occasions, it is best to list the institutions, conferences, etc., under a single entry. Multiple listings of the same activity can appear as though one is padding the CV.
Various committees or organizations often invite museum professionals to jury or judge competitions. If the applicant was involved with selecting work for an exhibition, then the applicant served as a juror. If the applicant selected works for awards, purchase, etc., then the applicant served as a judge.
- Professional Activities/Service
Professional services activities such as fundraising and development, community outreach, relevant volunteer work, etc. should be listed. If the applicant has served on committees, boards, and task forces, those are worth listing. The nature of the applicant’s involvement, name of the organization, and dates of service should be indicated.
- Grants/Fellowships/Awards/Honors (appropriate headers depending on experience should be chosen)
The applicant should list distinctions and awards they have personally received as well as any distinctions awarded to exhibitions, projects, publications, etc., that the applicant oversaw. Include the name of the award and granting institution, and the year received.
- Computer and Technical Skills
It is important to list technical abilities, especially if they are relevant to the position and/or in application to smaller institutions, where staff have varied roles. The applicant can list various software programs in which the applicant is proficient.
The applicant should list all foreign languages and the level of expertise for each. It is helpful to distinguish between reading, written, and spoken fluency, and among native, fluent (or business fluent), good, conversational, etc.
- Professional Affiliations
The applicant should list the name of professional organizations in which they hold active membership (e.g., CAA).
- Other Sections
- Involvement in special programs and/or extensive travel experience could be listed here.
- References if the job announcement specifically requests this should be listed. It’s important to seek permission from those serving as references before providing such a list. Otherwise, the CV may state, “References furnished upon request.” The applicant should keep in mind that the manner in which an applicant handles references is a measure of professionalism.
- If pertinent, the applicant may also wish to state: “Portfolio of projects, publications, and references available upon request,” or include the URL to the applicant’s personal website.
Sample CV Available
Linked here is a sample CV for museum professionals to serve as a guide. This example is not intended to be comprehensive and the applicant can expect the CV format to evolve over time based on new experiences. The applicant should review the various guidelines mentioned here, gather sample CV for layouts, and tailor the format of the CV sections to best fit one’s experiences.
Authors and Contributors
Revised with contributions by members of the Museum Committee (2016–18): Jeffrey Abt, Wayne State University; Bruce Boucher, Sir John Soane’s Museum; Judy Fox, c2-curatorsquared; Antoniette Guglielmo, Getty Leadership Institute at Claremont Graduate University; Leslee Michelsen, Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, and Design; Elizabeth Rodini, Andrew Heiskell Arts Director, American Academy in Rome; Elizabeth Schlatter, University of Richmond Museums; and Celka Straughn, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas.
Originally submitted by the Professional Practices Committee (2000): 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; and Dewey Mosby, Colgate University.
CAA’s Museum Committee (2000) under the supervision of Marilyn Kushner (chair) also contributed to these conventions.