17 Museum Archivist Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a museum archivist, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

Museums are institutions that collect, document, protect, and preserve the material evidence and associated information about the history of humanity and the natural world. Museum archivists are the professionals responsible for managing these collections.

If you’re interested in becoming a museum archivist, you’ll need to have a master’s degree in library science, information science, or a related field. You’ll also need to be able to answer a variety of museum archivist interview questions.

In this guide, we’ll provide you with sample answers to some of the most common museum archivist interview questions. We’ll also give you some tips on how to answer these questions so you can make a great impression on potential employers.

Are you comfortable working with a diverse range of people and groups?

Working in a museum can involve interacting with many different types of people. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the interpersonal skills necessary for working in a team environment. In your answer, share an example of how you’ve worked well with others in the past. Try to choose a situation that is relevant to the job and highlight any soft skills you used.

Example: “I am very comfortable working with all kinds of people. I find it interesting to learn about other cultures and perspectives. At my last job, I was tasked with organizing a new exhibit on ancient Egypt. My manager asked me to work with a group of volunteers who were creating a replica of a tomb. We had to communicate our ideas clearly so everyone could understand them. By listening to their feedback, we were able to create a great exhibit.”

What are some of the most important skills for a museum archivist?

This question can help interviewers understand what you think are the most important skills for this role. When answering, it can be helpful to list a few of your strongest skills and how they apply to working as an archivist in a museum.

Example: “I believe that communication and organization skills are two of the most important skills for a museum archivist. As an archivist, I would need to communicate with other staff members about which records to keep and which ones to discard. In addition, I would need to organize all of the documents and files so that they’re easy to find when needed. Another skill that is important for this role is attention to detail. Archivists must ensure that they record information accurately and maintain their work spaces.”

How do you prioritize your work to ensure you complete your tasks on time?

This question can help interviewers understand how you manage your time and workload. Use examples from previous experience to explain how you plan out your work schedule, organize your files or create a project timeline.

Example: “I use my calendar to keep track of all my tasks and deadlines. I find that this is the best way for me to stay organized and on top of my responsibilities. In my last role as an archivist at a local museum, I had multiple projects due each week. To prioritize my work, I would first look at which projects were due sooner rather than later. Then, I would decide which ones required more research or needed additional resources before I could begin working on them.”

What is your experience with creating digital archives?

The interviewer may ask this question to learn about your experience with digital archiving and how you use technology in your work. If you have previous experience creating digital archives, describe the process you used. If you do not have prior experience, explain what steps you would take to create a digital archive.

Example: “In my last role as an archivist at a local museum, I worked alongside our IT department to create digital archives of all of our collections. We started by scanning each item into the computer using high-quality cameras. Then we uploaded the images into a database where we could search for specific items based on their description or title. This allowed us to easily find any archived items when visitors asked for them.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult or challenging artifact.

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your problem-solving skills and ability to handle challenging situations. In your answer, try to describe how you handled the situation and what steps you took to resolve it.

Example: “In my previous role as an archivist at a local museum, I had to deal with a difficult artifact that was in poor condition. The artifact was a piece of pottery from the 1800s that was cracked and chipped. Because we couldn’t display the artifact in its current state, I decided to take it home and repair it myself. It took me several weeks to fix the cracks and chips on the pottery, but I eventually restored it to its original state.”

If you had the opportunity to create the digital archives for our museum, what would your priorities be?

This question is a great way to assess your knowledge of the digital archiving process and how you would apply it in this role. When answering, be sure to highlight your understanding of the importance of digital archives and how they can benefit museums.

Example: “I believe that digital archives are an essential part of any museum’s collection because they allow for easy access to information about exhibits and artifacts. I would make sure that all digital records were properly backed up so that if there was ever a problem with our system, we could restore everything without losing any data. I would also ensure that the digital archive was easily accessible by both staff members and visitors.”

What would you do if you discovered an important artifact was damaged?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would react to a challenging situation. Your answer should show that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions and learn from mistakes.

Example: “If I discovered an artifact was damaged, I would first document the damage in the object’s file. Then, I would try to determine what caused the damage. If it was my fault, I would immediately inform my supervisor so they could decide on a course of action. Depending on the extent of the damage, I may need to repair or replace the artifact. In this case, I would work with other archivists to find a suitable replacement.”

How well do you understand copyright laws and their application to museum archiving?

The interviewer may ask this question to assess your knowledge of copyright laws and how you apply them in the workplace. Use examples from past experiences to show that you understand copyright laws and can use them effectively when working with archiving projects.

Example: “I have a bachelor’s degree in library science, so I am very familiar with copyright laws and their application to museum archives. In my last role as an archivist at the state historical society, I worked on several projects where we had to archive materials that were copyrighted. For example, one project involved preserving digital media files that were copyrighted by the artist who created them. We needed to make sure we didn’t violate any copyright laws while still preserving the materials for future generations.”

Do you have experience working with government archives?

This question can help interviewers understand your experience with a specific type of archive. If you have worked with government archives in the past, share what types of records you organized and how you did it. If you haven’t worked with government archives before, talk about any other kinds of archives you’ve worked with and how they’re similar to or different from government archives.

Example: “I haven’t worked specifically with government archives, but I have worked with public records at my current job. In that role, I helped organize documents like birth certificates, marriage licenses and property deeds. These documents are very similar to government records because they both contain information about people’s lives and experiences. However, there are some differences between them as well.”

When is it appropriate to share historical artifacts with the public?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your knowledge of the museum’s collection and how you would use it. They want to know that you understand when items are available for public viewing and when they’re not. In your answer, explain what factors influence whether or not an item is on display.

Example: “I believe that historical artifacts should only be shared with the public if they can be safely displayed without damaging them. For example, I worked at a small history museum where we had several documents from the Civil War era. These were fragile pieces of paper that could easily tear if someone handled them too much. We decided that these documents were best suited for display in our archives rather than out in the open.”

We want to improve our outreach initiatives. What ideas do you have to help us reach new audiences?

The interviewer may ask this question to gauge your interest in public outreach and how you might contribute ideas for improvement. In your answer, try to highlight any experience with outreach initiatives or community engagement projects.

Example: “I think it’s important that museums reach out to new audiences and welcome them into the museum community. I have volunteered at a local children’s museum where we hosted an event every month to engage families with young children. We had story time events, craft days and other activities geared toward different age groups. These events helped us grow our audience and connect with more people who love art and culture.”

Describe your experience with using museum databases.

This question can help interviewers understand your experience with a specific type of database and how you use it. Use examples from your previous work to explain what types of databases you’ve used, the software you’ve used to create them and any other relevant details about your experience.

Example: “I have extensive experience using museum databases in my current role as an archivist at the National Museum of History. I created our entire database system by hand when I first started working there, which took me several months but was worth it because I could customize it exactly how we needed it. Now, I use a program called Muse that allows me to enter information into the database quickly and easily.”

What makes an artifact significant and worth preserving?

This question can help interviewers assess your knowledge of the museum’s collection and how you might preserve artifacts. In your answer, explain what factors make an artifact important to a museum’s mission and include examples from your experience that show you understand the value of preserving these items.

Example: “I think it is important for museums to preserve artifacts that are significant in some way. For example, I worked at a local history museum where we had many objects donated by families who wanted us to display them because they were part of their family history. We also have artifacts that tell stories about our community or state, like this old baseball glove that was signed by a famous player when he came to town to play a game.”

Which preservation methods do you prefer to use?

This question can help interviewers learn more about your preservation methods and how you apply them to archiving. You can answer this question by describing the different preservation methods you use in your current role, or you can describe a specific method that you prefer over others.

Example: “I have experience using several preservation methods at my current job, including deacidification, encapsulation, cold storage and freeze-drying. I find that these methods are all effective for preserving documents, but I prefer freeze-drying because it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to preserve paper records.”

What do you think is the most important role that a museum archivist plays?

This question is a great way to show the interviewer that you understand what it means to be an archivist. It also gives them insight into how you view your role in the museum and how important it is. When answering this question, make sure to emphasize the importance of archives and explain why they are so valuable.

Example: “I think the most important role that a museum archivist plays is preserving history. Archivists ensure that we have access to our past, which allows us to learn from our mistakes and celebrate our successes. Without archival records, we would lose much of our ability to learn about our world and ourselves.”

How often should museum artifacts be inspected for damage?

This question can help interviewers assess your knowledge of the museum archiving process. Use examples from your experience to explain how you inspect artifacts and what you look for when inspecting them.

Example: “In my previous role as a museum archivist, I inspected artifacts once every two weeks. This was part of my regular workflow, so it wasn’t something that required extra attention or time. However, if I noticed any damage on an artifact during my inspection, I would take additional steps to ensure its safety. For example, if I saw a crack in a glass display case, I would remove the item from public view until I could repair the damage.”

There is a disagreement between two of your colleagues about how to handle an artifact. How do you resolve the situation?

This question can help interviewers understand how you work with others and your ability to resolve conflicts. When answering, it can be helpful to describe a specific situation that happened in the past and how you resolved it.

Example: “In my previous role as an archivist, I had two colleagues who disagreed about whether or not we should move an artifact from one storage room to another. One colleague thought we should keep the artifact where it was because of its historical significance, while the other wanted to move it because they believed it would be more accessible for visitors. After discussing both sides of the issue, we decided to move the artifact to a different location within the same storage room.”


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