This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Exhibition technicians prepare, install, maintain and dismantle museum or art gallery exhibitions.
Part-time exhibition technicians usually earn
$30K-$52K per year
Full-time exhibition technicans usually earn
$40K-$55K per year
Source: Museums Aotearoa.
Pay for exhibition technicians varies depending on their experience, the size of the organisation they work for, and how many hours a week they work:
- Exhibition technicians working part time or as contractors may earn $30,000 to $52,000 a year.
- Experienced, full-time exhibition technicians may earn $40,000 to $55,000 a year.
Source: Museums Aotearoa.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Exhibition technicians may do some or all of the following:
- provide a budget for the cost of installing an exhibition
- design and build models, furnishings and fittings
- safely unpack and install exhibitions and arrange artefacts, and set up sound and visual effects
- arrange for contractors, such as painters, to install parts of an exhibition
- monitor and maintain exhibitions while they are on public display
- safely dismantle exhibition furniture and props and pack for storage or shipping
- support artists and/or curators during installation, display and dismantling of exhibition.
Skills and knowledge
Exhibition technicians need to have:
- creative ability
- skill in reading and interpreting designers' plans
- knowledge of a wide range of building materials and methods
- practical and technical skills such as carpentry, metalwork or painting
- knowledge of occupational safety and health requirements for safe building practices and correct lifting techniques
- knowledge of how to correctly pack and unpack artworks and other fragile items.
Exhibition technicians may also need to know about lighting techniques, graphics and 3D design, conservation practices, and fine arts.
- usually work regular office hours when preparing for exhibitions, but may work longer hours when setting up and dismantling exhibitions
- work in workshops, galleries, museums and theatres, on film sets, and at art and design schools
- work in conditions that can be dusty or dirty
- may have contact with toxic or flammable materials such as cleaning fluids, enamel and spray paints
- may travel locally to source materials for exhibitions, or to different museums or galleries in New Zealand.
What's the job really like?
Artist Murray Hewitt works part time as an exhibition technician. "Some works need problem solving. Each one can be very different. Doing art myself, I know you want the viewer to experience the work in a particular way, not just in a way that is the most practical for the installer to put the work on the wall."
Being part of a creative industry
"I like being around art and artists. I think the industry makes a really valuable contribution to society. I particularly liked being involved in the Julian Dashper work called The Big Bang Theory. It's five drum kits, which I had to set up perfectly in line. I'm really interested in music as well as art, so that was cool."
Construction skills and an eye for detail
"Having general building skills is useful – you're often putting up walls or making whole rooms, doing lots of painting and gibbing.
"You've obviously got to have attention to detail and stay focused because you really don't want to stuff it up. There's a famous story of someone putting up a painting that was worth $300,000 – they put it up wrong and it fell down and was damaged. So, yeah, you've got to stay on your toes."
There are no specific courses to become an exhibition technician, however most roles require you to have some building or construction experience, and many exhibition technicians hold a master's degree in an arts subject.
It is useful to have a qualification or skills in:
- industrial design
- museum studies
- model making
- fine art or technical drawing
- project management
- furniture building
- joinery and carpentry.
Useful school subjects include art, technology, woodwork, metalwork, maths, and design at NCEA Levels 1, 2 or 3.
Exhibition technicians need to be:
- practical and creative problem solvers
- accurate, with an eye for detail
- organised and able to work to deadlines
- patient and adaptable
- able to work well in a team and with a diverse range of people
- able to prepare and work to budgets.
It’s quite physical work because there’s often lots of lifting and you’re on your feet all day long, and at the same time you’ve got to stay focused while you’re hanging off the side of scaffolds.
Useful experience for exhibition technicians includes:
- art and design
- handcraft work
- work in galleries, museums or theatres.
Exhibition technicians need to be fit, as the work may involve lifting large objects and spending long hours on their feet while installing exhibitions.Check out related courses
What are the chances of getting a job?
Many exhibition technicians work on short-term contracts, sometimes for a number of galleries or museums. People on contracts may struggle to find regular work and may only be able to work part time as an exhibition technician.
Entry-level jobs hard to find
Work opportunities for people starting out as exhibition technicians are particularly hard to come by as the work tends to stay in the hands of established and experienced exhibition technicians.
Networking key to finding roles
A good way of gaining experience is to work as an assistant to an established exhibition technician, or work as casual labour on a project.
Industrial design in higher demand
Museums and film production companies need exhibition technicians who can create props and models for displays and film sets. Exhibition technicians who have industrial design degrees and model-making expertise are in demand to do this work.
Varied employers in arts
Most exhibition technicians work for:
- art galleries
- exhibition design and construction companies
- art and design schools.
They may also work for theatres or film production companies. Some may be self-employed and work as contractors to museums or galleries.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, ‘2006-2014 Occupation Data’ (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Parton, SJ, lecturer, Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, Careers New Zealand interview, August 2015.
- Tocker, P, executive director, Museums Aotearoa, Careers New Zealand interview, November 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Exhibition technicians may go on to work:
- as an exhibition preparator at a larger museum
- as an exhibition programme manager at a smaller museum or gallery
- for exhibition design and construction companies
- running their own businesses.
With project management skills and seven or more years' experience, exhibition technicians may progress to project manager roles.
Last updated 12 February 2018