The goal of this position is to strengthen scholarly and curatorial research capabilities that advance the Smithsonian’s mission in the 21st century with the aim of increasing and diffusing knowledge, infusing new energy into innovative and creative initiatives, leveraging collections, resources, and partnerships. As the nation’s design museum and the Smithsonian’s leading voice for design innovation, Cooper Hewitt goes beyond the traditional “decorative arts” collecting areas and embraces design as a multi-dimensional, fundamental platform for catalyzing research and worthwhile practices in a broad range of fields such as architecture, industrial and graphic design, social impact design, environmental design, and digital technologies.
The Curator of Contemporary Design will be encouraged to work closely with a diverse group of cultural producers and practitioners on cross-disciplinary studies ranging from social issues to global concerns, with a clear focus on actively engaging communities both inside and outside the museum with exhibitions. It is essential that the incumbent be equally comfortable organizing major exhibitions like the museum’s popular National Design Triennial, and addressing timely and provocative topics such as contemporary manufacturing techniques, mobility, gaming technologies, healthcare, technology, systems designs, as well as making acquisitions for Cooper Hewitt’s contemporary design collections.
In addition to being a thinker and an operative in the field, the ideal candidate will bring a high degree of curiosity to the position and an eagerness to initiate collaborations among Smithsonian units, manufacturers and designers. The curator will also cultivate partnerships with faculty and researchers at leading universities, such as NYU, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, as well as foster a network of designers, manufacturers, and artists. With the museum’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower people through design foremost in mind, the candidate will further the public’s engagement and awareness of the critical importance of design, bolstering Cooper Hewitt as the leading world authority in contemporary design.
MAJOR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The curator’s primary responsibility is to conceive, research and implement exhibitions that leverage CHSDM’s expansive definition of design. The candidate brings an in-depth awareness and knowledge of current areas of research across a broad spectrum of topics in design, technology, the arts and sciences that facilitates interdisciplinary thinking and stimulates Cooper Hewitt’s team and audiences with new developments and new ways of working with, exhibiting, and experiencing design. The curator should have a track record of developing and producing contemporary design exhibitions and public programs that showcase new frontiers in design research that will have a major impact on design and our future as a nation and as a global community of users. Responsibilities include articulating the exhibition concept, writing catalogues and wall text, selecting the works and overseeing the installation. The candidate must utilize a collaborative and integrated approach to exhibitions and program planning that significantly enhance the quality of visitor experience, attracts positive press and earns respect from the general public and community of designers.
In collaboration with the curatorial departments, the incumbent helps develop a multidisciplinary strategic plan for building the contemporary design collection, while directing the museum’s burgeoning collection of digital media and digital end-products that capture the design process. Collections management includes collection maintenance: planning and directing proper storage, identifying conservation needs, cataloguing, supervising photography of collection objects, and providing didactics to various museum departments. Incumbent seeks objects for acquisition and supervises all paperwork and computer entries of prospective objects.
Research and Professional Development:
The incumbent conducts original, independent scholarly research on contemporary design, defining topics of genuine significance and determining feasibility of the topic for publications and exhibitions depending on the appropriate scope of the topic. Research results in publications and articles either in conjunction with an exhibition or separately, which are considered a major contribution to scholarship in the field. The incumbent handles scholarly documentation (bibliography, notes, etc.) with little editing. To keep abreast of current research and design exhibitions, maintains contact with scholars and curators in the field. Reviews research proposals, manuscripts, and publications as requested by colleagues and outside institutions, fields questions, reviews objects as necessary, and consults on long-term directions and goals of CHSDM research programs.
A recognized voice in contemporary design, the incumbent lectures and participates in symposia, conferences, panel discussions or other programs related to contemporary design. Works closely with Education, Cross-Platform Publishing and Digital and Emerging Media staff to develop meaningful opportunities for visitor engagement with objects. Responsibilities include: responding or supervising response to public inquiries related to the collection and other pertinent topics; supervising departmental visitors and making collection objects available for study as appropriate, presenting gallery talks and lectures related to the museum’s collections and exhibitions. Time permitting, serves as a lecturer on contemporary design at the MA Program in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies (Parsons New School). Provides and coordinates information about department’s collection for cooperhewitt.org. Actively contributes to the museum’s expanding web presence and social media.
Supervisory/Managerial includes but is not limited to: assigning work, setting priorities, and reviewing and evaluating work and performance of subordinates; approving leave; coaching and developing employees; recommending corrective or disciplinary actions; assisting in budget planning and projecting short-term needs; managing projects within assigned resources; resolving routine problems that typically impact the objectives of the organizational unit.
• A Master’s degree (or higher) in art history or design with an expertise in contemporary design that includes an in-depth understanding of the design process and design history.
• A recognized expert in the field through work as a curator and/or scholar in the field. Proven record of initiating, curating and delivering exhibitions of excellence within a strong, original, insightful and responsive curatorial vision.
• Excellent research, writing, oral communication and time management skills are essential. Must be able to write fluently and persuasively in a range of styles and formats.
• A positive, proactive and collegial work ethic is essential.
• Demonstrates strong interpersonal and diplomatic skills to initiate collaborations among Smithsonian units.
• Knowledge of museum management principles and the ability to participate in a wide variety of committees and exhibition meetings for planning and developing purposes.
• Compelling public speaker and experience in conducting a wide range of public programs for adults, students and youths, and scholars in the field.
• Ability to fundraise for acquisitions and exhibitions and to work with the Development Department to strategize fundraising support for programs and activities, assisting with fundraising as appropriate.
• Ability/experience serving as a supervisor and demonstrated leadership skills.
SALARY: Highly Competitive
TIAA-CREF (Defined Contributions – 12 percent)
Free Life Insurance
Voluntary Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance
Long Term Disability
Health Insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield)
Dental (Delta Dental)
Vision (Vision Services)
Flexible Spending Accounts
Free Transit/Commuter Benefits (up to $3,060commuter costs paid per year)
Annual Leave (13 days) increasing after 3 years (20 days)
Sick Leave (13 days)
Federal Holidays (10 days)
Family Friendly Leave Family Friendly Workplace
Historic Carnegie mansion and landmark offices
Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden
92Y Fitness Center
Free Entrance to Museums and Galleries
Employee Assistance Program
Tarallucci e Vino (Museum Cafe) Discount
Museum Shop Discount
General Employee Discounts
HOW TO APPLY:
Please submit cover letter and resume (addressing qualification requirements) to HRcurator@si.edu
Application deadline is: Open until filled