Curator, American West
The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC) seeks a Curator (Assistant or Associate level) of the American West to build a program largely focused on, but not exclusive to, the William S. Hart ranch and collection (Hart Museum). The program will encompass the oversight and interpretation of the collections, scholarly research on the collections and their historical context, and development of content—in collaboration with Southern California’s multi-cultural communities—for a variety of public programs.
NHMLAC’s Hart Museum is a Spanish Colonial Revival mansion located in Newhall, a suburb of Los Angeles and home to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. The Hart Museum offers free year-round programming and tours to approximately 34,000 annual visitors and school groups. It is the former home of silent movie star William S. Hart (1864-1946), which he bequeathed to the County of Los Angeles for the purpose of creating a museum, and features a large collection of objects, works of art, photographs and documents, and furniture and memorabilia from his career as a star of early westerns. The Hart collection is complemented by more than 2,000,000 historical and anthropological objects and documents, with a focus on Southern California and spanning 13,000 years of human occupation, under the purview of NHMLAC’s History and Anthropology Departments.
The current presentation of the Hart Museum focuses on an interpretation of Hart’s legacy that is not reflective of the ways in which his films misrepresented the American West’s multi-cultural past, embraced the narrative of Manifest Destiny, and did not fully engage communities whose cultural resources are a part of the Hart collection. However, decolonizing the narrative of the Hart Museum is beginning, through existing research and outreach focused on the history of Southern California and the strengthening of existing relationships with local organizations and communities. The Curator (a position within NHMLAC’s History Department) is expected to work with these communities in uplifting their stories through a reinterpretation of the complex history of the American West and its intersections with William S. Hart and early Hollywood films. The successful candidate will be paramount for the transformation of the Hart Museum into a gathering space of public conversations, critical research, timely exhibitions, and inclusive public programs focused on the unheard voices of the communities marginalized by a narrative of the American West that too often has ignored its cultural diversity. The Curator will join a community of NHMLAC’s scholars and experts on the cultural and natural history of Southern California.
The successful candidate will have a record of outstanding research, excellent communication skills, and a demonstrated ability to engage the public and stakeholders; experience with the care, digitization, management, and operation of cultural collections is highly desirable. A Ph.D. and a strong track record of scholarly publications focusing on the American West are required. The Curator will be expected to build an active and publicly appealing research program, to oversee the management of the Hart collection including efforts for expanding accessibility through digitization, and to supervise staff and volunteers. Additionally, the successful candidate is expected to develop working relationships with local universities and cultural organizations, mentor interns and students, strengthen NHMLAC’s presence in key community and governmental networks, and maintain and sustain research through competitive grants and/or other funding from external sources. The Curator will be expected to participate actively in a broad range of museum activities, including exhibits, education, community-based programs, educator and volunteer training, public communications, media interactions, and fundraising activities. The Curator must have the vision and capability to build a scholarly program that can be integrated with NHMLAC’s ongoing efforts to understand regional history through the voices of Los Angeles’ multicultural communities, and to shape the collections and research in ways that activate their multi-cultural and public appeal.
NHMLAC values and endeavors to support diversity, equity, inclusion, and access within its organization and communities. Candidates who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC), neurodiverse, a woman, a person with a disability, a veteran, and/or a part of the LGBTQAI+ community are welcome and encouraged to apply. This is a full-time position with a salary and title commensurate with experience.
Application deadline is November 30th, 2021. Applicants should send a cover letter, vision statement, curriculum vitae, and contact information of at least three professional references as a single PDF document. NHMLAC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.