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Athabasca University

Working in the Heritage Sector

The heritage sector contains many different institutions and activities requiring a variety of skills. Many of the web sites on this page indicate the range of jobs that exist and what qualifications employers seek.

For descriptions of professions, follow the links on the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals webpage. Parks Canada also offers a list of the professions that it hires.

Working on Contract

Many people build careers in heritage by working on contract. Contracts can be let for many activities, including planning, research, curating exhibitions, or conserving a specific group of artefacts. As well, Historical Resource Impact Assessments (HRIA) are carried out by contractors who have the necessary professional qualifications.

Contract work is common in the heritage sector because funding is often limited, and work is sometimes seasonal and project specific. For the employee, the advantages of contract work are personal flexibility, job variety and intellectual challenge; the downsides are lack of permanency and employment benefits. 

In some cases, a contract can be negotiated one-to-one with a museum or agency. In other cases, an individual submits a tender or teams up with colleagues to do so.

A tender, or a proposal, is the document that is submitted in response to a call for proposals. The proposal sets out the contractor's fees and how she or he would approach the job. For guidance on preparing one, see the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals' “Tendering Guidelines”.

How do you find out what contract work is available?

  • By word of mouth through a network of contacts at relevant agencies and institutions.
  • By establishing contact with large firms that do contract work and hire subcontractors for specific tasks. This saves you the expense of running a business and allows you to participate in large complex projects that you could not carry yourself.
  • Through registers of consultants maintained by museums and agencies. These registers list people who will be asked to submit proposals. Ask institutions or agencies that interest you or match your skills and interests if they maintain a register and how you can be placed on it.
  • Through lists maintained by some archives of researchers who can be hired by people requiring research to be carried out at that archive.
  • By visiting web sites such as MERX (http://www.merx.com/) that list calls for proposals by federal and provincial governments. Heritage projects are not common on this site, but it is still worth keeping an eye on it.
  • By being included on the lists of consultants recommended by regulatory agencies for completion of HRIAs. While the scope of such lists and the types of work included vary by province, have your name included if you have the qualifications.
  • By staying current about new funding or projects that might allow for contract work. The easiest way to do this is through professional web sites and List Serves.

Staying Current

Information about current developments is important for anticipating where jobs might be available. One way of staying current is through web sites such as those of professional organizations at the regional, national, and international level. Among the many relevant ones are:

There are also museum and heritage agencies coast-to-coast-to-coast. For examples, see: 

List Serves are also a good source for up-to-date information. You need to research which ones best match your needs. There are different types including national, sectoral, regional and local ones. Here are a few examples:

Job Lists

There are many web sites with job listings. These sometimes also list calls for proposals for contract projects. Here is a sample:

Museums and agencies — at least the largest ones — sometimes post openings on their web sites. While these are usually also found on the general job lists such as the CMA, be sure to watch the page of any institution you are interested in. For examples, see:

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Updated April 28 2017 by Student & Academic Services

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