Check the Classifieds…

By Eric Johnson


As readers can probably tell from earlier posts by other members of this committee, mining old #musetech job listings is really a lot of fun.

My task has been to scour the last 50 years of New York Times classified listings, pulling together job ads for positions advertising some kind of use of technology in museums. As an aside, there’s some real historical and cultural anthropology to be done in old classifieds sections.

It’s notable how many ads–ads in general, not #musetech ads–in the 1960s and 1970s simply looked for “college grads” who would then be connected to a whole host of jobs. Apparently it was enough that they went to college. “Attractive people” were regularly sought to fill certain positions. “Fee Paid” was a common notation. Often employers sought a “Gal/Man Friday” and asked “No phone calls please.” I was tickled to see one non-technical museum executive assistant job listing seeking a “right arm to director” for whom “[p]oise and personality are vital to interface with art experts and artists. Average skills fine.” I mean, who needs skills, really?

Here are some highlights of the search:

January 4, 1970, pg. 267

This is the earliest job ad I’ve found combining museums and computers:

In case you can’t read it well, here’s the main info:

Financial Analyst . . .
Metropolitan Museum Of Art

Accounting background for work in expanding Treasurer’s office. Awareness of computer application helpful. Produce special financial studies of Museum activities.

Mail resume to Manager of Personnel . . .

I find myself wondering: what computer application (or application of computers) do they mean?

January 12, 1975, pg. 300

This position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was found under the heading “Data Processing”:

Computer Operations Supervisor

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is seeking an individual to direct the daily operations of its new data processing facility. Requires 3-4 years data center experience, including 1-2 years computer room supervisor responsibility on an IBM 360 DOS disk/tape system. Experience with data entry and quality control essential. Salary $14,000-$15,000 plus 4 weeks vacation & excellent benefits.

If you’re curious what an IBM 360 DOS disk/tape system looks like, here you are:

By ArnoldReinhold – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


And just to get a sense for that salary, according to the U.S. Inflation Calculator, a $14,000 – 15,000 salary range in 1975 translates to a $63,889.70 – $68,453.25 range today.


September 17, 1989, pg. W23

The Cooper-Hewitt Museum found themselves in need of a Museum Registration Clerk:

Registrar’s office seeks technician exp’d in collections mgmt. Candidate creates & maintains computerized accessioning program, reviews insurance coverage & loan program for incoming & outgoing objects. Serves as timekeeper for dept & provides gentle technical & clerical support. Previous exp w/IBM PC & PS/Multimate & dBase III+ an advantage. Familiarity w/dec arts or design & foreign language helpful. 3 yrs exp req’d. Education may be substituted for exp. Sal $19,993. Send resume . . .

Multimate, for the uninitiated—and I count myself among them—is an office word processing software. Here’s a great review of it from the May 4, 1987, edition of InfoWorld magazine. And dBase III+ is a database management system for standalone microcomputers (consider it the Microsoft Access of its day).

June 6, 1993, pg. W7

Listing their needs under “computer” in the classified jobs section, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum used their ad to list a couple of openings for people talented with technology:

The Museum presents an exciting opportunity to combine the worlds of international art museums & leading edge computer technologies. We have a growing PC/Network environment of 200 PC’s and 250 users.


Serve as liaison with users and user groups for technical support and project advice; research, purchase, install and troubleshoot hardware/software; and work on small and large systems projects.

Requires intimate familiarity with PC’s, DOS, WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3; a love for troubleshooting & problem solving; detail orientation; excellent oral & written skills for dealing with staff of all levels; and an eagerness & quickness to learn. BA degree, Mac, Windows, Memory Management, and Novell a plus.


Maintain, modify and support existing financial systems: accounting, ticketing, point of sale, and merchandising. Systems are multi-user, based on DOS/Novell, and developed by outside vendors in various languages. Duties include designing/implementing hardware & software enhancements; troubleshooting; maintaining security; providing technical support; and acting as liaison with vendors & user group leaders.

Requires experience supporting complex, mission-critical database systems; familiarity with PC’s and DOS; excellent oral and written skills; and quickness to learn & juggle numerous large-scale systems. Financial systems, project management and Novell experience a plus.

This is the year I graduated from college, so the need for desktop support familiar with DOS, WordPerfect, and Lotus 1-2-3 is all too resonant. I like that both positions welcomed Novell experience, Novell being an earlier leader in computer networking. I also appreciate that the financial systems analyst position specifically refers to working with outside vendors, an indication of an important new skill set for technologists.  But Memory Management?  That was a new term to me–but thanks to Sean Blinn, we may have a handle on it.  Check out this article for a fantastic trip down memory lane through the state of computing–including memory management–in 1991.

August 8, 1999, pg. W13

The Brooklyn Museum of Art needed an Information Systems Manager:

Brooklyn Museum of Art seeks exp professional to develop & manage IS/IT dept; establish standards of hardware (PC & MAC), software & network operating systems (Novell, Windows NT); Y2k review; deal w/vendors; support major museum systems/databases & provide training & support to staff. Degreed, exp w/systems admin & knowledge of applications & operating systems read. Please FAX cvr ltr w/resume to . . .

Novell is still going strong, but Windows NT shows up. But the thing that made this ad stand out to me is the need to manage “Y2k review.” Many of us may remember that the IT world was very unsure about what would happen when computer clocks rolled to the year 2000 (the “Y2K bug”), so they threw a lot of resources at it all to make sure systems didn’t crash. The actual day came and went without major system failures, but that might well have been because of conscientious actions from people like this museum IS Manager.

One thing that stands out about viewing positions over time, as the earlier posts in this series have indicated, is the increasing specialization both of the positions themselves and of the software/hardware with which they will interact.  Another, as Sarah Outhwaite noted, is how the technology for submitting résumés changes as we work through the ads: first mail, then fax, then on to mail/fax/email.


Now the links to application websites are included.

What’s going to stand out about your job description in a decade or three? What are the skills that are timeless and which ones are only “here and now,” an artifact of being employed in 2017 (as opposed to 2067)?