16 Mar 2021

STEM Careers in Museums

Museums can be really fun and interesting places to work, educating people about the past and stimulating their interest in what might happen in the future.

There are many roles within a museum environment that allow you to get close to the collection, which is often diverse and fascinating. In our own collection we have everything from the oldest working steam engine in the world, the Smethwick Engine, which our technicians help look after to fossils that are millions of years old, under the care of our Natural Science Curator. Museum roles also often allow you to work with many different groups of people, whether educating them on the collection or working with them to create a new exhibition.

Many of these roles are STEM careers and so if you’re interested, take a look at some of these amazing roles below. Find out what people do, what they studied and what they love most about their job. The people below are all currently working at Birmingham Museums Trust.

Natural Science Curator

Natural Science Curator Lukas examining fungi

Lukas is our natural science curator. His role involves looking after our natural science collection. This includes documenting and researching the collection and developing new displays and exhibitions. Our natural science collection has an incredible array of objects from taxidermy animals and birds, as well as their nests and eggs, to insects, plants, fossils, minerals and gemstones. They cover a huge timescale with some of the fossils being millions of years old.

Lukas studied genetics at University and after a while started volunteering with Birmingham Museums Trust to gain experience of museum work, before becoming a curator.

For Lukas, the best part of his job is the different things he gets to do from one day to the next. For example, helping with new exhibitions. Lukas can be involved with everything from the concept for the exhibition to choosing objects to display, to researching and writing text for labels.

Science and Industry Research Assistant

Science and Industry Research Assistant Felicity

Felicity works as part of the Curatorial and Exhibitions team to curate the Science and Industry collection. This involves research, working with colleagues and community groups to develop new exhibitions and displays and thinking about new objects we could add to the collection to help us tell new stories.

Felicity enjoyed humanities and science subjects, so chose an undergraduate degree that combined them: Archaeology and Anthropology. Her degree covered everything from Neolithic farming to primate genetics. After working in museums for a while she became interested in the history of technology and recently completed her PhD on the transition from horse to tractor in British farming.

Felicity’s favourite part of her job is that she’s continually learning, whether through her own research of the collection or from visitors and communities or connecting with academics and organisations, who are developing fascinating new ideas and perspectives on the past, present and future of science and technology.

Senior Technician

Senior Technician Greg fixing machinery at Thinktank

Greg works as a museum technician at Thinktank. His role is very diverse and involves shutting down and starting up the museum, maintaining the exhibits, maintaining the steam system and cooling system for the running of steam engines, maintenance of water systems and things in gallery like lighting. Greg also helps maintain a lot of behind the scenes things that keep the museum going.

He studied a five year advance apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and maintenance, NVQ level 1, 2, 3 in engineering maintenance and machining and BTEC National Cert in Mechanical Maintenance. Greg has been at Thinktank for 15 years after first starting here during his apprenticeship.

Greg’s favourite part of the job is the variety of work. He can go from machining a part for a 150+ year old heritage steam engine to being 14ft underground in the Science Garden changing a pump for the water feature.

Finds Liaison Officer

Finds Liaison Officer Teresa x-raying an object

Teresa is a Finds Liaison Officer for East Staffordshire and North West Midlands for the Portable Antiquities Scheme. She records archaeological finds made by members of the public. In order to record finds she has to identify them first which meant learning a lot about different manufacturing technologies and material types. She uses a wide range of equipment from a camera to take record photographs, to an X-ray machine to understand the construction of different artefacts to an XRF machine to study the metallic composition.

Teresa studied Archaeology for her undergraduate degree followed by a masters in Palaeopathology, both at Durham University.

The best part of her job is the wide range of different finds she gets to see and handle.

Objects Conservator

Object Conservator Ben sitting underneath a turtle shell to clean it

Ben works with objects in the collection, making sure objects are ready to go out on display for new exhibitions or ready to go on loan to other institutions. He also does collections care.

Ben has a BSc in Conservation of Decorative Surfaces and an MA in Restoration and Conservation. Ben studied Chemistry and History at A-level to get onto the undergraduate course.

For Ben, the best part of his job is being able to get hands on with objects in the collection, which people are generally discouraged from doing. Ben has worked at a range of places from Roman Castles to Westminster Abbey.

So if you love getting hands on, doing different things and continually learning maybe a career in museums could be for you.