Collection Research and Interpretation Specialist

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) seeks an experienced researcher and content creator for a two-year term position to unlock the full storytelling potential of the museum’s permanent collection on the eve of a major reinstallation project. The Collection Research and Interpretation Specialist will contribute to the planning and execution of a multi-year project to renovate and reinvigorate the museum's historic collections and spaces. Working collaboratively with curators, educators, exhibition designers, and digital strategies staff, the successful candidate will play a key role in shaping more inclusive and engaging interpretive frameworks and experiences for SAAM visitors

This position reports to the Head of Interpretation and Audience Research within the Education department and is part of an agile and highly collaborative team responsible for developing customized interpretive content for a broad range of museum visitors and informal learners.

Salary and Benefits

This is a two-year appointment for a full-time (40 hr/wk) temporary Trust position (IS-09) with a starting salary of $60,129/year plus full health and leave benefits. Flexible work arrangements and telework options are available; however, a fully remote hire is not possible due to the eventual need for on-site work at the museum buildings.


Research and Content Development: Works closely with SAAM curators to conduct in-depth research on collection objects, artists, and related histories that have been overlooked or omitted from dominant cultural and institutional narratives. Research will support the creation of audience-centered interpretive content that offers a more dynamic and inclusive experience of American art and addresses structural biases and inequities. (40%)

Interpretive Planning and Experience Design: Collaborates with the interpretation team and curators to develop interpretive plans for permanent collection galleries that articulate big ideas, key messages, and visitor experience objectives. Develops interpretive materials and experiences that provide more diverse pathways for audiences to access and understand the collection, including maps, timelines, games, response stations, videos, audio features, etc. (40%)

Evaluation and Audience Research: Prototypes interpretive materials and evaluates their potential efficacy through user testing and formative audience research. Works with the interpretation team to devise audience studies that inform interpretive planning and content development. (10%)

Professional Convening: In collaboration with the Head of Interpretation, organizes a virtual convening of interpretation and visitor studies professionals to discuss strategies and best practices for interpretive label-writing. Synthesizes convening takeaways and incorporates key tactics into content development for the reinstallation. (10%)

Education and Experience

  • Degree (MA preferred) in Art History, American Studies, Museum Studies, Museum Education
  • 3-4 years of museum experience working in an education, interpretation, or curatorial department

Skills and Abilities

  • Proven ability to develop and implement interpretive strategies for a museum of art and culture
  • Skill in writing about art for diverse audiences in a manner that is accessible, relevant, and engaging
  • Experience conducting scholarly research
  • Knowledge of current theories and best practices in museum interpretation, informal learning, and audience engagement
  • Knowledge of American art history and critical race theory (preferred)
  • Excellent interpersonal communication skills; demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with cross-departmental teams
  • Strong organization and time-management skills as well as the ability to remain flexible in a dynamic work environment

How to Apply

To apply for this position, please send the following materials to with Collection Research and Interpretation in the subject line.

  1. Cover letter
  2. Resume
  3. Name and contact information for 3 references
  4. Work sample demonstrating a creative approach to interpretive content development, i.e. a museum object label, audio stop (transcribed), gallery interactive, or similar. Sample should not exceed one page and 250 words of written content.

Application deadline: Friday, October 15, 2021

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required as a condition for employment at the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian is an Equal Opportunity Employer.