Guidelines for College and University Galleries and Museums

Adopted by the Southeastern College Art Conference at the 2000 Annual Meeting, Louisville, KY, October 2000, and amended at the Annual Meeting in Jacksonville, FL in October 2004.


College and university art galleries and museums exist in a wide variety of forms. They often focus exclusively on art, but also can include other disciplines such as anthropology, history and science. Some solely mount exhibitions while others also collect objects. They can be found as independent entities within the academic setting, or as a part of a department or departments. Although some schools have clearly delineated policies and procedures regarding museums and galleries, some do not. The purpose of this document is to establish a framework that can be used by institutions, regardless of their configuration, to formalize their gallery and museum policies. In order to accommodate the wide range of forms which galleries and museums take, these guidelines have been designed to be flexible. Specifically, they include the questions that colleges and universities need to address in order to establish relevant policies to determine appropriate staff reporting, and institutional support.

Job descriptions for directors and other museum staff need to include the reporting procedure, qualifications, and position status (faculty/staff). The mission statement needs to specify where the gallery/museum fits within the university/college structure, who the audience is, what kinds of exhibits are scheduled, and collection parameters.

Although responses will vary, the answers to the following additional questions will help define how the museum/gallery is structured and governed. Who has authority for selecting exhibitions? Is there an exhibitions committee/advisory committee? Are there any barriers to what the gallery can do or the kinds of art it can show? Is there an adequate budget? What kind of staff support is there? Through the process of answering these questions and devising these policies, college and university galleries and museums can create a blueprint to guide directors in contributing fully to the aesthetic and intellectual growth of their audiences.

Hiring Procedures for College and University Galleries and Museums

Hiring procedures for various staff positions will vary considerably depending on the complexities of college or university gallery/museum structures. Some galleries may be administered through art department staffing; some are independent of an academic department, but may fall under the authority of a Dean, Provost, or Vice President. Some galleries/museums require large specialized staffs; others may have only one part-time staff member who may have the responsibilities of Director, Curator, Registrar, et al. Some galleries/museums have collections that require registration expertise, while others may not have collections - they mount exhibitions only. Because of this variety, staff qualifications will vary from institution to institution.

The gallery/museum staff members should be granted rank and status equal to those of other professionals with equivalent educational credentials and responsibilities within the institution. This includes equivalent salary levels, eligibility for promotion and tenure (if the position is adjunct to a tenure-track faculty line), participation in college or university governance, retirement, and other benefits. If academic status for gallery/museum professionals does not exist within the university or college, every effort should be made to reach salary parity with faculty or other staff positions within the university. For example, a museum director should have parity with academic administrators who have similar levels of responsibility; a curator should have parity with academic professors.

Listings for gallery and museum positions are often placed in the following publications: AAM Aviso, CAA Careers, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and professional organization websites.

At some institutions the positions within the gallery/museum might result from the reassignment of faculty from teaching responsibilities. When such reassignments occur, and new positions are not created, no job search process is necessary to fill gallery/museum assignments.

If positions exist or are created specifically to staff a gallery/museum, then detailed information concerning position responsibilities should be supplied to any job candidate requesting such material. This information should include:

  1. A detailed description for the position including its ranking and reporting structure within the department and institution;
  2. A description of the gallery/museum facilities;
  3. A brief statement of the gallery/museum mission or philosophy with a current and/or past exhibition schedule(s);
  4. A description of the current staffing - permanent and student (if applicable) - in the gallery/museum, including the average number of hours per week each employee typically works;
  5. An explanation of benefits, salary range, and the availability of support for professional development;
  6. A brief description of the procedures, evaluation processes, and anticipated timetables used in making decisions about professional advancement.

Standard institutional hiring procedures should be followed. If possible, the top-ranking candidates should be invited to the institution, and be provided an opportunity to evaluate the facilities, meet the staff, talk with the faculty, students and other professionals in the institution with whom the candidate would frequently interact, review the benefits package, and meet with administrators concerning the direction and future of the gallery/museum.

Job Descriptions

Academic institutions should provide an accurate job description for each gallery or museum position. All matters regarding reporting structures, renewal, retention, pay raise policies, promotion (if applicable to the position), and eligibility for tenure (if applicable) should be made clear in a letter of expectation to all professional staff.

Reporting Procedures

Depending on the complexity of the organizational structure of the gallery/museum, reporting procedures will vary. For gallery/museums whose missions are to serve the university community, the region, and with sizeable permanent collections; or galleries/museums that offer professionally curated exhibitions, a gallery/museum director would normally report to a dean, provost or university vice president. Smaller, less complex galleries, whose missions are primarily to serve as service units by exhibiting works by faculty and students within art departments might have directors who report to an art department chair.

Professional Development

It is important to provide opportunities for gallery/museum staff members to participate actively in the activities of relevant local, regional, and national professional organizations such as the College Art Association (CAA), the American Association of Museums (AAM), the Mid-America College Art Association (MACAA), Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), etc. They should be encouraged to attend conferences and relevant workshops, engage in research, etc. Where the possibilities of teaching, writing, and publishing exist, the appropriate staff should be encouraged to do so. Institutional support for these activities is essential and should be equivalent to that which is available for other similar professionals in the same institution.

Annual Review and Advancement

The museum/gallery director and staff should be reviewed on an annual basis, preferably through conferences between the appropriate administrators and the employee. The evaluation criteria shall be equivalent to those of other professional positions in the institution. At minimum they should take into consideration sound job performance, evidence of professional development, and potential for growth. Evidence of appropriate professional activities within the institution, regionally, and nationally should also be included in the evaluation. The museum/gallery director and staff under review should be provided with a written copy of the reviewer's comments for their records.

At the time of the original appointment, a tentative date should be set for consideration for promotion (if applicable to the position) based on a performance review which allows at least one year in the initial rank for promotion.

Evaluation and Review Procedures for Gallery/Museum

College or university galleries and museums should be evaluated. Reviews should be based upon a standard set of criteria in accordance with the guidelines and procedures used to evaluate other units within the institution (such as academic departments). Such criteria may be used for either external reviews conducted by accrediting agencies or internal reviews conducted by the institution for the purpose of self-evaluation. In either case, it is recommended that a self-evaluation of the gallery or museum, undertaken by the staff members who manage it, precede the actual review. The staff person in charge of the gallery or museum should be the chief contact person for all reviews.


Staffing for a museum/gallery will be dependent on such factors as the size of the institution, the level of financial support, and the extent of the collection (if any). Sufficient support staff with the appropriate qualifications should be provided. Ideally, galleries and museums with collections require a curator, curator of education, curator of collections, registrar, and preparator or exhibition designer.


At least an M.A. or M.F.A. in art history, studio art, museum studies, or arts administration is normally required. Positions that are tenure track may require a terminal degree in one's field of study. Actual experience in managing an arts organization could be considered in lieu of degree qualifications. Significant experience in an art museum or an art gallery with a working knowledge of operational procedures is also recommended.

Depending on such factors as the size of the institution, the level of financial support, and the extent of the collection (if any), the responsibilities of a gallery/museum director may require some teaching as well as administrative duties. A gallery or museum director whose job description includes teaching should not be expected to teach a full course load at the institution.

The qualifications expected for a director may range considerably from one institution to another depending upon the responsibilities required. For example, at some institutions the director is responsible for meeting with advisory committees, planning exhibition schedules, and meeting with museum/gallery members, sponsors and university administrators. At other institutions some of these functions are assigned to other gallery/museum staff. In either case, the director should have a thorough understanding of all gallery/museum functions whether they are personally undertaken or delegated to others.

Gallery/museum directors should not be expected to raise funds for staff salaries, even if fund raising for the gallery/museum is part of the job description. Those institutions that encourage the director to raise money for the gallery or museum should provide access to the institution's development unit, or should make serious efforts to establish a line for a part-time or free-lance development person to assist in fund raising efforts.


At least an M.A. in art history, museum studies, studio art, or relevant field. Evidence of research and writing skills. Actual curatorial experience or other relevant gallery/museum experience could be considered in lieu of degree qualifications.

Curator of Collections/Collections Manager

At least an M.A. in art history, museum studies, studio art, or relevant field. Actual curatorial research and writing or relevant gallery/museum experience could be considered in lieu of degree qualifications.


At least a B.A. in art history, museum studies, studio art, library science, or relevant field. Actual registration experience or educational background in fields requiring cataloging could be considered in lieu of degree qualifications.

Curator of Education

At least a B.A. in art history, art education, or related field. Evidence of research, writing and public speaking skills. Actual curatorial experience or other relevant gallery/museum experience could be considered in lieu of degree qualifications.


At least a B.A. in studio art, museum studies, or equivalent combination of education and experience.

Exhibition Designer/Graphic Designer

At least a B.A. in studio art, design, or related field, or equivalent combination of education and experience.


A variety of jobs can be completed by interns, work-study students, or students taking classes for experiential course credit. As with the professional positions, there should be a detailed job description.

Respectfully submitted by the SECAC Committee to Establish Guidelines for College and University Galleries, October 2000 Marina Pacini, Chair, Rhodes College; Steve Arbury, Radford University, Gylbert Coker, Florida A&M University; Arthur Jones, Radford University, Sam Yates, University of Tennessee