Issue 116/12, p17, 1.12.2016
How should the role of gallery assistants evolve?
Katie Hinchliffe, gallery assistant, V&A, London

“I believe that the role of the gallery assistant is an important one. As the public face of the museum, we are the go-between for staff and visitors.
I think that, in order for the position to evolve, we need to become more visible, and recognised for our individual skills and talents.

A more hands-on approach would be beneficial in museum programming, to make use of the knowledge and individuality that gallery assistants possess, across all museum platforms.

We need to be able to show what we can do.”

01122016-nicola-mossNicola Moss, curator, St Andrews Preservation Trust

“With the sector increasingly under pressure to spend less yet engage more, it is imperative for every role within the museum to be developed to its full potential.

The gallery assistant, in particular, has a lot to offer. Although assistants often make up most of a workforce, their wealth of experience and knowledge can too easily be forgotten about.
We need to remember that gallery assistants are our eyes and ears – able to tell us when exhibits work with visitors and when they don’t, making them a worthwhile asset.”

01122016-kenn-taylorKenn Taylor, head of participation, The Tetley, Leeds

“The gallery floor is the heart of the visitor experience in museums. It would be good to see more people given the chance to move from invigilator to senior leadership positions as the role gives you great perspective.

This would also increase workplace diversity. The public should be able to expect good standards from invigilators and this is best achieved by paid and trained staff, although invigilators should be open to new ways of engaging the public. All senior managers should spend a day a month on the gallery floor, it would benefit everyone.”

01122016-amy-mechowskiAmy Mechowski, head of the learning academy, V&A

“In spite of being front-facing members of staff, gallery assistants’ individual knowledge and skills tend not to be maximised and too often remain ‘hidden assets’ within museums.

A reciprocal relationship in which they are encouraged to develop their skill set and contribute in new ways would enable institutions to benefit from their added value.

Increased opportunities for public engagement and the sharing of their expertise would increase respect for these vital members of staff on the part of museum colleagues and visitors alike.”