Job Opportunity: Design Museum

Opportunity: Chief Curator – Design Museum, London

Closing date: 19 March 2023, midnight


An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Chief Curator to lead the Design Museum’s exhibitions programme. As the world’s leading museum dedicated to contemporary design and architecture this is an exceptional opportunity to realise an innovative and imaginative programme that drives the field of design forward. The exhibitions programme is at the core of the museum’s mission and purpose, to make the impact of design visible to all. It will be critical in driving the museum’s engagement with new and diverse audiences. As a key member of the executive team, the Chief Curator will work with the CEO/Director, the Director of Audiences and the Director of Future Observatory to build the forward exhibitions programme and take a leading role in revenue generation. They will have responsibility for delivering forward-looking, inspiring, commercially successful, and critically acclaimed exhibitions and displays. They will work to make every aspect of the museum’s exhibitions programme, from scenography to interpretation, reflect its ambitions to reach broad audiences and stimulate critical debate. Their work will have impact across the organisation, providing curatorial expertise to all departments. The successful candidate will have a deep knowledge of contemporary design. They will be an excellent leader, communicator and an advocate for design and architecture. They will need to demonstrate that they have strong relationships with the design and architecture community and an international network.

Job scope

The primary responsibility is for leading the Curatorial team and realising the museum’s programme, from researching and curating temporary exhibitions to generating proposals from both internal and external sources. The Chief Curator line-manages the Head of Curatorial and Interpretation and works closely with that role in overseeing the successful delivery of the exhibitions programme. The Chief Curator will work closely with departments across the museum to ensure the programme is well integrated and communicated, as well as presenting it to museum committees and the Board of Trustees. They will be a central figure in representing the museum to the media, partner organisations, sponsors, and funders. They will provide exceptional leadership to the Curatorial team inspiring them to deliver a world class exhibition programme, directly managing the Head of Curatorial and indirectly, ten in the wider team.  

Job description

Curatorial leadership

. Lead on building the museum’s forward programme, including researching and curating temporary exhibitions, displays and site-specific commissions that deliver the objectives of the museum in terms of audiences and mission

. Lead on the curatorial ethos and standards of exhibitions, from clear narratives and professional relationships with lenders, to engaging exhibition design and interpretation 

. Forge an exhibition programme strategy for reducing the environmental impact of the museum’s exhibitions, working closely with internal and external stakeholders 

. Develop a strategy for redefining the representation of untold or misrepresented design narratives in the museum’s programme 

. Provide effective leadership to the Curatorial team, line-manage the Head of Curatorial and be a mentor to the Curatorial team

. Implement interpretative tools in an effective manner and ensure that exhibitions are engaging and accessible

. Working closely with the CEO/Director to manage the membership and contribution of the Curatorial Committee

. Present exhibitions strategy and proposals to the Curatorial Committee and the Board of Trustees as required 

. Keep abreast of relevant developments in museums and design discourse, promoting them across the museum 

. Foster and maintain good working relationships with donors, patrons, sponsors and collectors, colleagues from other national and international institutions, the scholarly community and the media

. Foster a culture of evaluation and reflection across the team and support the building of a body of knowledge around audience engagement, interpretation and learning 

Programme delivery

. As part of the Senior Leadership Team contribute to long term strategic planning in the business planning cycle for the curatorial programme 

. Sign off key exhibition stages, including exhibition narrative, concept design and detailed design

. Work closely with the Exhibitions team to ensure the well-organised delivery of the programme, within schedule and budget

. Ensure that the museum has a commercially viable offer for its touring and international engagement strategy and work closely with the Head of International Engagement to ensure its delivery 

. Work with the Touring team on the touring exhibitions programme and in developing the museum’s international network of partnering institutions

. Work in collaboration with the Learning department to feed into educational resources and public programmes around exhibitions 

. Collaborate with the Marketing and Communications team on exhibition titles, promotional strategies and press relations

. Work with Retail and Publishing as required on the development of books and merchandise and ensure that suitable content is available for commercial propositions 

. Work closely with the museum’s Development team to foster relationships with donors, patrons, collectors and sponsors and support the development team on funding strategies for exhibitions and to support sponsorship proposals and funding applications 

Advocacy and thought leadership

. Be an advocate for the museum as one of its thought leaders, reaching a wide range of stakeholders and audiences through public speaking, media interviews, membership of juries, committees and advisory groups 

. Take part in public programme events as host, speaker or in chairing panel discussions

. Conduct exhibition tours for media, patrons or the public as required

. Write on behalf of the museum for general and specialized publications  

. Contribute to the delivery of the MA in Curating Contemporary Design

. Support agreed Collaborative Doctoral Awards that are focused on curating  

Person specification


. Experience of curating high-profile exhibitions, attracting substantial visitor numbers 

. Experience of delivering successful visitor engagement in the context of exhibitions and displays through effective application of interpretation strategies 

. Proven experience of working to international museum standards 

. Demonstrable engagement with architecture and/or design practice around the world

. Experience of being an effective institutional spokesperson in the media on a range of design related subjects 

. Track record of publishing in a design-related field


. Ability to influence and persuade others and liaise effectively with colleagues and external contacts within a museum/gallery environment

. An effective leader of people and manager of resources, including financial

. Thought leader – an ability to generate programme ideas that are timely and relevant

. Excellent written and verbal communication skills

. Ability to work under pressure, meet deadlines and retain good attention to detail

. A mutually supportive and collaborative team working style

. A commitment to the work of the museum and its values: welcoming, collaborative, enterprising and forward looking  


. A master’s degree in design history, art history or equivalent

. A good understanding of interactive and digital engagement in exhibitions and displays 

Terms and conditions

Salary: up to £60,000 per annum, dependent on experience

Holidays: 25 days + Christmas eve and boxing day (museum closed)

Hours: full-time, 37.5 hours per week, 5 days per week

Location: the museum is trialling a part-remote working arrangement, where staff work 60% of their role at the museum and 40% remote 

Special demands of the role: there will be a requirement to travel abroad and attend evening and weekend events

Closing date: 19 March 2023, midnight

Interviews: *proposed dates- 29 and 30 March 2023

For more information, visit

Source: Design Museum


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