This position is located in the Curatorial Department, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. The Director of Curatorial is the head of all curatorial departments at the museum and reports directly to the Director of Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum (CHSDM). The position’s primary function is to provide leadership to the Museum’s five curatorial departments (215,000 objects), and to direct the overall curatorial vision and creative direction of content for the institution. Together with the museum’s Director and all other senior management staff, the Director of Curatorial is responsible for developing overall policy and direction for the Museum as a whole.

Major Duties


Serves as the Director’s lead and principal partner/advisor on curatorial affairs, content, and creative vision and assists the Director and other senior management staff in developing overall policy and direction for the Museum to fulfill its stated mission.

Oversees the day-to-day management of CHSDM curatorial affairs, collections management, and acquisitions, policy and planning, research, and conservation. Directly supervises all curatorial department heads, curatorial staff, and Head of Conservation.

Serves as an Ambassador with the Director of Development to make proposals to institutional and individual donors. Stewards and cultivates committee members to feel engaged and enthused with the Curatorial Program. Meets or exceeds yearly established fundraising goals for collection acquisitions along with the Director of Development and other committee members. Works to ensure that the Development team members and curators are working on raising funds for shows well in the future, armed with sufficient, exciting information from the curators/content generators.

Coordinates the efforts of the curators and guest curators in collaboration with the Exhibitions Department and other departments in the conceptualization, development, and implementation of CHSDM exhibitions, publications, and related programs.

Prepares and manages the department’s curatorial budget and works closely with the Exhibitions and Finance team in the annual calendar of exhibitions and projects in accordance to budget processes and approvals. Together with the Director and Deputy Director, plans the overall calendar of exhibitions and projects with a five-year lead time and plans budget approval processes accordingly.

Working with the exhibition, learning, and interpretation teams, translating academic language and concepts into clear and accessible language for public display. Supports the development of interpretive materials for loan and collection exhibitions, including wall texts, labels, and other explanatory materials accompanying displayed collections to identify content providing an educational experience for CHSDM visitors.

Disseminates scholarly knowledge on fields of expertise to the public through lectures, public programs, symposia, gallery talks, and interpretive programs. Works closely with the Director of Learning and Audience Engagement and their team to determine educational events related to collections, exhibitions, and relevant topics of interest to the museum’s mission, broadening audiences and enhancing public participation. Responds to routine inquiries from the public in different areas of curatorial expertise.

Produces scholarship of the highest order. Each new piece of scholarship may be tied to a specific museum project or exhibition but continues a career-long study and is considered authoritative in the field. The work is conducted under general administrative supervision limited to budgetary approval and broad policy requirements.

Initiates, develops, and coordinates major research projects of considerable scope in collaboration with professionals at CHSDM, other museums, and other scholars.

Oversees CHSDM’s acquisitions (including purchases, gifts, and commissions) to expand the scope, improve the collection’s overall quality, and uphold CHSDM’s mission to broaden and diversify its holdings. Oversees and directs the development and implementation of the Museum’s collection plan, which informs all acquisition and deaccession priorities and requires expert professional judgment to maintain and keep current with new developments in the field. The collection plan establishes long-range planning for expanding, improving, and using the collections. Oversees all acquisition funds, grant proposals, or other outside funding to further the program.

Manages curatorial and conservation departments to complete tasks and work in an outstanding manner, and on budget, reflecting goals of Strategic Plan. Provides the Director with presentation-ready materials for Board and other critical meetings and keeps the Director informed of all critical projects, visits, and curatorial presentations.

Takes the initiative in leading the members of the curatorial and conservation teams, inspiring them to think and work in innovative and collaborative ways.

Takes the initiative in developing new strategic directions so Cooper Hewitt continues building its reputation as a design museum presenting the latest and most innovative ideas. Encourages staff to share their scholarship, conference presentations, and more on blogs and social media. The position is also responsible for finding ways for audiences to connect with the collection beyond the format of an exhibition, staying abreast of Smithsonian priorities, programs, and opportunities for collaboration, and encouraging Cooper Hewitt curators to contribute to programs at other Smithsonian institutions and vice versa.

Oversees the Head of Conservation, responsible for overseeing the conservation and preservation of Cooper Hewitt’s collection of over 215,000 decorative and design objects. Conservation has two on-site labs and one offsite. The Curatorial Director ensures that Conservation works closely with the Curatorial, Registrar, Exhibitions, and other departments in the museum and at the Smithsonian.

Works with the Director, staff, consultants, and other appropriate individuals to examine the Museum facilities and propose realistic options for collections storage, offsite programming, and utilization of collections according to Smithsonian Institution Collections Management Policies.


As well as overseeing the Conservation team and other curatorial functions, the position oversees, supervises, and manages the work of the five curatorial departments: Product Design and Decorative Arts; Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design; Wallcoverings; Textiles; and Digital.

Develops performance standards for reporting managers/supervisors and evaluates their performance regularly. Reviews and approves recommendations for personnel actions, including hiring for key positions, and acts on major personnel issues referred to by managers. Develops, implements, and monitors policies and is directly responsible for achieving Smithsonian and Museum objectives in critical areas such as staff development, labor relations, and equal employment opportunity.

The Director of Curatorial is responsible for furthering the goals of equal employment opportunity (EEO) by taking positive steps to ensure the accomplishments of affirmative action objectives and adhering to nondiscriminatory employment practices regarding race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or handicap. Specifically, the incumbent initiates nondiscriminatory practices and affirmative action for the area under his/her supervision in the following: (1) merit promotion of employees and recruitment and hiring of applicants; (2) fair treatment of all employees; (3) encouragement and recognition of employee achievements; (4) career development of employees; and (5) full utilization of their skills. Keeps informed of, supports, and communicates EEO policies, plans, and programs to employees.

Develops and implements operating policy, procedures, and objective standards for review to ensure a high quality of staff performance. Works effectively to ensure that all members of the curatorial department operate as effective team members, ensuring that communication is efficient and collaborative and that costly delays are minimal.

Schedules and approves leave, plans and implements achievement of critical Smithsonian and CHSDM objectives in staff and program diversity, staff development, and employee and labor relations; gives advice and counsel or instructions to employees on work and administrative matters. Interviews and appoints new employees.

Performs other duties as assigned.


$168,861 – $191,900 per year

The Smithsonian uses the General Schedule (GS) pay scale for Federally funded positions. This is a Federally funded position at Grade 15.


The permanent duty station is 2 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128


Because this is a federally funded position, applicants are required to apply online at USAJOBS:

Application Deadline is: 05/28/2024


Pass Pre-employment Background Check and Subsequent Background Investigation

May need to complete a Probationary Period

Maintain a Bank Account for Direct Deposit/Electronic Transfer

Males born after 12/31/59 must be registered with Selective Service

Must have a valid U.S. Passport


The Smithsonian Institution provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodation should contact the point-of-contact listed in the “How To Apply” section above. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, please review the Smithsonian’s Accommodation Procedures.


The Smithsonian Institution is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We believe that a workforce comprising a variety of educational, cultural, and experiential backgrounds support and enhance our daily work life and contribute to the richness of our exhibitions and programs. See Smithsonian EEO program information:


The Smithsonian Institution ensures its employees (federal and trust), applicants, and affiliated persons (interns, research associates, fellows, and volunteers) are protected from discrimination and unfair treatment in the workplace regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender identity, gender stereotyping, pregnancy, and sexual orientation), age, disability, genetic information, marital status, parental status, or political affiliation and are free from reprisal against protected activities. In addition, other Smithsonian policy prohibits discrimination based on membership in an employee organization or other non-merit factors, and political affiliation.

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