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Reference Assistant

Expectations for all employees:

As a member of the MIT community, supports MIT's Non-Discrimination Policy and respectfully interacts with others in the community, and continues to expand their understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion best practices. Represents MIT and MIT Museum with professionalism, ethics, integrity, and mutual respect towards colleagues, internal and external clients, and visitors. Keeps current and proficient with necessary skills and knowledge, including computer skills. Self-identifies training needs relevant to work area and responsibilities. Demonstrates initiative, flexibility, openness to change, and accountability. Expected to know, participate in and pass appropriate training and certifications programs, and follow relevant Environmental Health and Safety Requirements. Works within a team environment, providing support to and collaboration with colleagues.

General Background about MIT Museum Collections:

The MIT Museum has an encyclopedic collection with strengths in ship design, architecture, photography, history of technology, and the history of MIT. The estimated 1.5 million items (about 163,000 are accessible online) include 2-ton electric generators, a 1/3rd scale test model of America’s Cup yacht America3, a world-record setting human-powered airplane, items that have flown in space, the world’s largest hologram collection, robots, scientific instruments, hundreds of thousands of ship plans, architectural drawings, photographs, audio and video recordings, t-shirts and class rings, and much more. These artifacts and archives support museum research, teaching, programs, and exhibitions, and inspire thousands of inquiries from researchers, boatbuilders, publishers, and an array of other parties with diverse interests and needs.

Position Overview:

The MIT Museum Collections Reference Assistant is a key front-facing position supporting the Collections Team in the goal of making the collections accessible to all. The Reference Assistant serves the Museum's maritime collections (approximately 50% effort as these materials are in very high demand from boat-builders around the world) as well as the general reference needs across all collections (approximately 50% effort).

This one-year, renewable term position is primarily performed on-site. The Reference Assistant will work from two different locations based on the location of reference documents needed for daily tasks (main museum in Kendall Square and an off-site collections facility on the orange line).

The position requires an engaged, organized, curious individual eager to help researchers, students, and others interested in the collections. The Reference Assistant is often the initial point of contact with the Collections Team and must be able to: quickly assess inquiries; communicate effectively with specialists and non-specialists (especially in maritime and STEAM fields); identify items relevant to each researcher; secure the appropriate permissions and payments; and arrange access or timely delivery of materials either in-person or online. The Reference Assistant will work especially closely with the Hart Nautical Collections curator, Digital Archivist, and Registrar.

Principal Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Respond to reference requests in a timely manner, communicating with reference patrons by email, phone, or mail;
  • Identify necessary permission forms and related agreements; secure signatures from requestors; and properly record this information;
  • Identify and locate relevant objects and digital assets in MITM's databases;
  • Assist with collection digitization;
  • Prepare materials and files for distribution, including basic image reformatting and editing;
  • Manage and track multiple requests simultaneously, including status of payments, use permission forms, and objects requested, using HubSpot and MITM's internal databases
  • Communication with curatorial staff on complex and/or unusual requests; forward requests to other staff as appropriate;
  • Supervise and manage in-person research visits; provides support for class workshops visits;
  • Other curatorial and digitization duties as needed or required;
  • Aid in preparing materials for transfer to and from museum facilities;
  • Participates in collections team meetings, trainings, and providing support to all staff for other museum projects as needed;
  • Other duties as assigned.

Supervision Received:

This position reports to the Digital Archivist. Tasks may be periodically assigned by the Assistant Curator for the Hart Nautical Collection and/or the Museum Registrar.

Supervision Exercised:

No direct reports. Provides occasional supervision of interns, volunteers, and temporary staff.

Experience/Skills Required:

General Requirements:

  • Excellent customer service and communication skills;
  • Excellent organizational skills with strong attention to detail;
  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously; respond to incoming requests in a timely manner;
  • Must be able to develop a working knowledge of specific technical vocabularies related to the MIT Museum's collecting areas, particularly maritime and boat-building topics, and to apply that knowledge in resolving reference inquiries;
  • Experience with, or demonstrated ability to learn, museum or archival database systems, digital asset management systems, CRM systems; and photo-editing software;
  • Demonstrated independent problem-solving skills. Must demonstrate sound judgement to identify and report problems to supervisors and contribute to resolving them;
  • Ability to work effectively both independently and as part of a team;

Physical Requirements:

  • Ability to lift and move oversize plans safely;
  • Ability to lift materials up to 35 lbs;
  • Ability to carry, handle and climb ladders to carry/place objects
  • Ability to traverse long distances or move from site to site

Educational Requirements:

High school diploma or equivalent

Preferred Experience Includes:

  • Bachelor's degree. Applicants with a background in maritime studies, history, history of science and technology and/or degrees or certificates in museum studies, archives management, library science, or other related fields are especially welcome.
  • Familiarity with nautical plans or boat design and construction. Familiarity with the history of science and technology or history of architecture also welcome;
  • Familiarity with an Apple Macintosh environment, Piction, HubSpot, MimsyXG, Photoshop or Lightroom;
  • Ability to drive and obtain a valid Massachusetts drivers license;
  • Expertise or strong interest in becoming knowledgeable about the MIT and the museum’s collections.

Work Environment:

Dual work environments: 1) Typical office or administrative workspaces; 2) Large warehouse space. HVAC is provided in both spaces. The nature of handling rare artifacts does require using gloves and the use of specialized tools for accessing and handling of collections materials.

This position is an MIT Pay Scale Level 5. To apply visit the MIT Human Resources site.