Job Opportunity: Department Exhibitions and Collections Manager, The Art Institute of Chicago


 The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879, is a world-renowned art museum housing one of the largest permanent collections in the United States. An encyclopedic museum, the Art Institute collects, preserves, and interprets works in every medium from all cultures and historical periods. With a collection of approximately 300,000 art works and artifacts, the museum has particularly strong holdings in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting, contemporary art, early 20th century European painting and sculpture, Japanese prints, and photography. The museum’s 2009 addition, the Modern Wing, features the latest in green museum technology and 264,000 square feet dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, architecture and design, and new museum education facilities. In addition to displaying its permanent collection, the Art Institute mounts more than 30 special exhibitions per year and features lectures, gallery tours, and special performances on a daily basis

Position Summary

 Reporting to the chair, and in close consultation with curators and other departmental staff, manages the department’s collection and exhibitions, including acquisitions, outgoing loans, incoming loans, deaccessions, object files, database records, metadata, and research materials.                                                                                  

Manages and coordinates activity pertaining to the collection, including the administration of new acquisitions, advisory committee meetings, conservation, exhibitions, gallery rotations and installations, loans, storage, documentation of permanent collection objects and promised gifts, and external research inquiries. Publishes accurate object information online through the museum’s databases, ensuring data fidelity and actively managing the tagging of department’s collection. Serves as liaison between departmental curators, technicians, and support staff; serves as main point of contact for department with Collections and Loans and Experience Design on developing and maintaining accurate collections data; facilitates departmental communication with Conservation and Science, Collections and Loans, Experience Design, Facilities, Imaging, and the Office of the Secretary, among others, for all collection-related issues; as needed, supports departmental relationships with galleries, collectors, lenders, donors, appraisers, artists, and committee members. In conjunction with curators, supervises departmental technician.                                                      

In collaboration with Museum Exhibitions, manages multiple departmental exhibitions and rotations concurrently and organizes all aspects of development and research, planning, and execution for domestic, international, and multi-venue exhibitions. Works closely with Museum Exhibitions on all aspects of exhibition-related activities and supports the development and tracking of exhibition budgets and timelines. Creates and maintains object checklists and exhibition databases, tracking information for each object, loan, and external partner. Along with curator, oversees development of archival and curatorial research on objects for exhibition, catalogue, and related interpretive materials. In consultation with project managers in Museum Exhibitions, initiates and conducts meetings and creates project timelines and ensures that the exhibition team adheres to deadlines. With relevant departments, supports all aspects of loans, installation, publicity, events, fundraising, and exhibition-related logistics. Advises curators and exhibition team on current museum protocols, requirements for exhibitions, and other exhibition-related matters. Manages exhibition-related interactions and activities between curatorial department, external partners––including partner and lender institutions, private collectors, and dealers––and internal departments, including Collections and Loans, Conservation and Science, Development and affiliated groups, Director’s Office, Experience Design, Imaging, Learning and Public Engagement, Museum Exhibitions, Museum Facilities, Museum Finance, Museum Shop, Marketing, Public Affairs, Publishing, Security, and Visitor Services.                                                      

Primary duties and responsibilities:

Permanent collection: Assists the curators in the management of the permanent collection. Develops and maintains digital and paper object files, object records, and artist and institutional files; publishes approved information on museum’s website. In consultation with curators, art handlers, and other department staff, coordinates all activity pertaining to the permanent collection, including movement of works of art and gallery renovations. Works with Imaging to ensure that every object record has an associated image. Facilitates deaccessioning, including preparing basic object research and documentation for advisory committee and Board of Trustees approval.

Provenance research support and cataloguing: Catalogues and, as needed, researches objects in the collection and exhibition objects; verifies information for Publishing, the Museum Shop, and other departments; builds object and exhibition files; in consultation with curators, facilitates provenance research for acquisitions, deaccessions, loans, and permanent collection objects; maintains awareness of provenance style and edits citations when appropriate.

Acquisitions: Manages the acquisition and deaccession processes. Creates and maintains database object and transaction records. Drafts and tracks all necessary documents for purchases, gifts, bequests, long-term loans, partial-interest gifts, and promised gifts. Compiles agendas for advisory committee meetings and develops and proofreads associated PowerPoint presentations. Ensures that all paperwork is assembled and submitted in a timely manner for approval by the Board of Trustees; loads all supporting documentation, including justifications and countersigned documents, into databases; web publishes object records; and verifies records of acquisitions for annual report. After committee approval, updates information as needed in databases and publishes object record online.                                                                                    

Collection storage and maintenance: Manages collection upkeep, including maintaining order and archival practices in storage; monitors works for conservation attention on need-be or loan request basis; supervises departmental object tracking; labels and/or supervises labeling of the collection. Manages storage of exhibition materials prior to installation and after deinstallation; steers treatment proposals between conservators and lenders; receives and addresses incident reports; supervises the maintenance of the gallery and installation; serves as the point person to address security, maintenance, and facilities issues; coordinates walkthroughs with Security; provides introductory presentations to officers’ roll-call as needed. Handles art as needed.

Data and website presence: Manages departmental efforts to publish accurate object information online. With curators, corrects and updates records for the department’s collection according to new research and scholarship; edits records following the museum’s style; works with curators to add research and text to object records for web publishing; adds tags to object records and works to enable records for web; ensures data fidelity and actively manages metadata of department’s collection.

Deaccessions: Manages the deaccession process following museum procedures issued by the Office of the Secretary and published on the intranet. With departmental colleagues, prepares basic object research and documentation for advisory committee and Board of Trustees approval, and ensures that paperwork is assembled and submitted in a timely manner for approval by Board. After committee and Board approval, updates information as needed in databases.

Committee meeting point person: Acts as point person for all committee matters working with the chair and curators to compile agendas for advisory committee meetings and develop and proofread associated PowerPoint presentations following Art Institute style. Compiles information from departmental colleagues and works directly with the Office of the Secretary to prepare for committee meetings.                                                                      

Exhibitions: Manages checklist and object information for exhibitions, from initial research and concept development through exhibition and return to lenders. Maintains database with detailed and accurate object information, including media and dimensions, framing/glazing/mounting and other display requirements, conservation, images and rights, lender requirements, provenance, and catalogue information. Facilitates correspondence with lenders and external partners, and coordinates all object-related activity with internal colleagues. Supports the curators with development of interpretive materials, including in-gallery labels and didactics, digital media, catalogue, and other interpretive or written materials.

Works closely with project managers in Museum Exhibitions to coordinate and support exhibition planning, including developing and monitoring project schedules and budgets, scheduling and preparing for meetings, tracking project milestones and adherence to deadlines, and facilitating cross-departmental and external communication and collaboration.

Gallery rotations, installations, and deinstallations: In conjunction with Museum Exhibitions, manages departmental installations, gallery rotations, and exhibitions. Maintains departmental calendar of all installations, rotations, and exhibitions; in consultation with curators, technicians, specialists, and other department staff, coordinates all activity pertaining to the permanent collection and exhibitions, including movement of works of art; coordinates production schedules, activities, and logistics, including the evaluation, supervision, and procurement of framing and matting needs, mounts, hanging materials, and hardware. Manages the production of object labels; adds final edited label text, descriptions, and tombstone to object database records for all permanent collection installations, rotations, and exhibitions for publication on museum website; creates exhibition database records and maintains all related exhibition information, manages object checklists, and archives closed exhibitions records.

Liaising and communication: Serves as departmental liaison for communication on the permanent collection and exhibitions with departments across the museum. Within the department, works with curators, researchers, departmental technicians and specialists, and other colleagues. Facilitates communication as needed on department-level external relations with galleries, collectors, lenders, donors, appraisers, artists, and committee members. Fields public inquiries and manages, by advance appointment, access to collection objects and research-related materials. Researches and responds to outside queries about the collection and exhibitions; coordinates with Public Affairs and Marketing as needed. Assists scholars’ research as appropriate. Provides training on databases and best practices to department staff, interns, and volunteers. For exhibitions, coordinates and follows through on all internal relations between the department and Collection and Loans, Conservation and Science, Director’s Office, and Museum Exhibitions, as well as between Museum Facilities, Experience Design, and Imaging for everything related to the preparation of the installation and deinstallation of the exhibition galleries. Coordinates and follows through on all department-level external relations between lenders, Collections and Loans, and the Director’s Office, for everything related to loans and the preparation of the installation and deinstallation of the galleries. Coordinates all activities between curatorial department, Collection and Loans, and Conservation and Science.   

Logistics and contracts: Coordinates with Collections and Loans and Museum Exhibitions to review loans, contracts, installation issues, and schedule for exhibitions. Supports Museum Exhibitions in reviewing and editing exhibition contract between partnering institutions, and provides information and checklists for contract. When living artists are involved, coordinates logistical and contractual details related to travel and installation. Processes exhibition invoices, completes invoice payment request and wire transfer forms; procures W-9 and W-8 forms as needed.                           

Loans: Manages outgoing and incoming loans process for the department; records and tracks all outgoing loan requests and documentation in databases; maintains up-to-date lists of pending, approved, and declined loans; organizes loan files; maintains calendar of all loans and courier trips; drafts loan letters and loan agreements; verifies that object information on loan agreement forms is accurate; in consultation with curators, researches insurance values; addresses queries from borrowers as needed; coordinates couriers in conjunction with Collections and Loans, and serves as courier as necessary. If necessary, solicits permission from lenders and copyright holders for promotional use of images. Drafts, issues, and tracks all necessary documents for loans, and ensures that all paperwork is assembled and submitted in a timely manner. Assists with budget tracking, procures estimates, and works closely with Collections and Loans staff regarding shipping related details, crating, and logistics.

Supervision of departmental technician: Oversees departmental technician and related duties, including organizing, coordinating, and supervising the preparation of objects for installation, loan, storage, shipment, and general extended care; coordinating the safe movement, storage, and basic care of objects in the permanent collection, acquisitions, gifts, and loans; tracking location of objects in database; maintaining the departmental galleries and monitoring environmental conditions; and assisting with framing.                                

Other duties: Assists curatorial staff with special projects as needed. Other duties as assigned.



  • M.A. required; concentration in art history, library science, or related subject a plus
  • Minimum of three years of collection management, registration, museum, library, gallery, or related experience required
  • Strong cataloguing, writing, research, and organizational skills essential
  • Experience with metadata, tagging, data fidelity, database management, and museum object records preferred
  • Familiarity with departmental field preferred
  • Knowledge of collection management systems desirable
  • Following appropriate training, ability to handle and lift art
  • The successful candidate should:

            -be highly detailed-oriented and organized,

            -demonstrate initiative,

            -have the ability to multitask, and

            -have excellent interpersonal communication skills.

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