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Building a Museum

Behind the Scenes
Members of the art crew use ropes and a lift to hang very large paintings on the wall.
  Members of the art crew use ropes and a lift to hang very large paintings on the wall.


As the museum has grown, so has the number of people needed to keep it running. In 1923, twenty-seven people worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Even so, the new director, Russell Plimpton, sometimes found himself washing dishes at receptions. In 2006, the museum has 256 employees and 474 volunteers. Here are some of the jobs in the museum today:

  • Curators (20 people) take care of the museum’s works of art. They shop for new art and build relationships with collectors who may want to give their art to a museum someday. Curators decide what art to hang on the walls and how to arrange it and also write labels to help visitors understand what they see.
  • Registrars (6 people) keep track of each work of art, including information about how it came to the museum and its location.
  • The art crew (12 people) moves art around the museum, builds display cases, and paints gallery walls.
  • Security guards (56 people) patrol the galleries, helping visitors and making sure the art is safe.
  • Development officers (10 people) raise money for museum projects from companies and individuals looking for ways to contribute to society.
  • Marketers and public relations staff (6 people) spread the word about museum activities through advertising and news stories.
  • Educators (13 people) prepare information about the collection and train volunteers to lead tours of the museum.
  • Volunteer docents and guides (331 people) lead visitors on tours of the museum. (The word “docent” comes from the Latin word for “teach.”) Many of them give more than 50 tours a year each, for a total of nearly 125,000 visitors!

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1. Security guards patrol the galleries. Guards walk three to five miles a day.
2. The art crew carefully moves a 1936 automobile to its place in the new Modernist Design galleries.
3. A curator consults with a workman re-creating a room from 18th-century Paris.


May 2006