Responsibilities of a Museum Director

There are a great variety of museums that a director can oversee.

There are a great variety of museums that a director can oversee.

A museum director has responsibilities that vary depending on the mission of the museum and its scale. Museum directorships can be highly rewarding, as their goal is to foster culture within a community. The museum director is atop the hierarchy within a museum and must see that the entire institution runs smoothly.


The most important aspect of most museums is the programming they provide to the community in the form of exhibitions, performances and permanent collection display. At a smaller institution a museum director can have a role in the curating of the programming, choosing artists and directions for the collection. At most institutions, though, a museum director is overseeing the institution as a whole and hiring staff to handle the curatorial role as they focus on the bigger picture of how the museum is running.

Fund Raising

Fund raising is a large part of art directorship for a museum of any size. Even the largest museums with a development and grant-writing department still have their director, as a figurehead of the museum, attending fund-raising events and representing the museum to potential donors. Most museums are supported either by private funders, government funding or a combination of the two. Government grants can be unreliable with changes in the economy, so a director must retain private funders to keep a museum endowed.

Staffing and HR

The museum director, as the top of the chain, also hires major staff members of the museum. In a large museum this is the department head's and curatorial team. In a smaller museum they may oversee the hiring of every staff member. If there are internal disputes within the museum, it is the director who has final say in how to handle the concerns and set policy to avoid problems.

Board Relations

The museum director also creates and maintains a board of funders and art professionals who promote and assist in the work of the museum at top levels. The board often includes donors who give regular in-kind contributions to the museum, and art professionals whose knowledge of the museum's artistic concentration can guide the direction of the museum. The director oversees regular meetings with the board, and reaches out to new potential members as needed.

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About the Author

Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.

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