Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Petra Chu


Museums, Collections manager, Independent collections managers, Non-traditional collections managers


Museums are increasingly following for-profit business models. Downsizing, partnering and outsourcing are no longer exclusive business terms, but have been adopted into museum lingo. As museums large and small adapt to decreased funding, they look for ways to stretch their dollars further. Museums are finding value in outsourcing work to independent professionals who are knowledgeable in museum practices. The available literature on museum outsourcing focuses on guest curators. Little is written about other categories of non-affiliated museum professionals on which museums rely, such as fundraisers, public relations officers, and, especially, collections managers. I am particularly interested in non-affiliated museum workers who work with the collection, whether under the job title of registrar or collections manager. As museums and similar institutions streamline their operations to become more efficient in a business-driven world, the role of the non-affiliated (independent as well as non-traditional) museum professional is emerging as a valuable service provider. I explore the phenomenon of independent and non-traditional museum professionals through the results of my national survey and excerpts of my interviews with 12 of these professionals. My interviewees work in a variety of areas including collections management firms, corporate collections, wealth management groups and private collections. Case studies and interviews with 8 museum staff members show the attitude of the museum world towards independent and non-traditional museum workers. I investigate the benefits and challenges that non-affiliated museum workers as encounter they navigate financial, contractual and professional situations divergent from those encountered by affiliated museum workers. Finally, I in look toward a future which the increase in independent and non-traditional museum workers may affect museums. Independent and non-traditional museum work may be an alternative career path for emerging and established museum professionals.