Chief Preparator

  • The Contemporary Jewish Museum
  • 736 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA, USA
Full Time Arts Installation Nonprofit Skilled Labor Production

Job Description

Position Summary

The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) seeks a Chief Preparator who will assume primary responsibility for the planning, installation, operation, and maintenance of exhibitions, including in-house shop production and art handling duties. The Chief Preparator maintains oversight and responsibility for the daily operation and maintenance of exhibitions and carries out regular art handling duties at The CJM. 

The Chief Preparator works with the Exhibitions and Curatorial team on the creative work process and operational details to plan, implement, and manage the production of exhibitions and installations. In addition, the individual in this position liaises with artists and designers on planning and preparatory activities.

The Chief Preparator role directly manages three positions: Exhibitions Fabrication Supervisor, Exhibitions Technical Supervisor, and Lead Preparator, and oversees the hiring and building of a team of skilled “on-call” Exhibitions Technicians. 

The successful individual in this position is expected to be a positive leader and to help The CJM expand its leadership role and reputation as a teaching Museum, and to seek opportunities to mentor the next generation of professionals in the field.


Essential Job Responsibilities

  • Collaborates with Exhibitions and Curatorial colleagues on creative concept, planning, and problem solving for future exhibitions. Offers ideas and generates iterative renderings for furniture, casework, paint schemes, and other exhibition-specific design elements
  • Responsible for hiring, planning for and maintaining employee roster, scheduling, and supervising the Exhibitions team including full-time, part-time, and “on-call” employees
  • Collaborate closely with Registrar and Exhibitions Manager to plan, strategize and ensure the safety and proper handling of all exhibition and collection objects
  • Prepares and leads regular trainings for Exhibitions team members, including general work safety, tool and equipment use and safety, material handling protocols, art handling and installation/deinstallation procedures, and operational practices
  • Oversees and maintains design/fabrication shop to highest performance and safety standards
  • Reviews and/or produces technical drawings, participates in bid preparation, and oversees fabrication process including walls, cases, pedestals, armatures, casework, and mounts. Works with 3D modeling software (SketchUp)
  • Works closely with commissioned artists on a variety of site-specific projects
  • Oversees the installation, disassembly, and packing related to exhibitions
  • Provides technical expertise and oversight on installation maintenance and troubleshooting of audio visual and new media work
  • Directs, analyzes, and maintains exhibitions lighting within relevant light-level restrictions.
  • Researches exhibition-related materials and AV equipment; coordinates relationships with suppliers and contractors
  • Generates budget data and manages to expense projections. Coordinate with external contractors to price, schedule, fabricate, deliver, and install all required design and display elements
  • Using accepted Museum standards, and in coordination with the Director of Facilities and Security, ensures a safe environment and compliant for CJM employees and visitors. This includes using appropriate materials, equipment, and methods to display, store, and pack works of art, and ensuring ADA compliance within the galleries
  • Provides OSHA and related training to Exhibitions team; provides guidance and oversight of proper and safe operation of power and hand tools; and training on operating lifts


Minimum Qualifications

  • A./B.F.A. in Art, Art History, Museum Studies, or related field
  • 5+ years’ experience managing installation projects; handling art work in a museum or contemporary art setting on an installation crew
  • Experience with archival methods of handling, displaying, and packing works of art
  • Interest in and commitment to the mission and core values of The CJM, including its beliefs in anti-racism, diversity, equity, access, and inclusion 

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities 

  • Proven ability to effectively manage multiple tasks within strict deadlines and to inspire productivity and enthusiasm in others
  • Strong team leader and manager with interest and capacity to mentor entry level and developing museum professionals
  • Experience in providing expertise and support to colleagues on cross functional teams and for various types of projects
  • Knowledge and ability to read and create technical drawings, building plans, specifications and diagrams. Experience with 3-D rendering
  • Thorough knowledge of building codes, construction techniques, materials and tools
  • Excellent organizational skills with attention to detail


Other Requirements  

  • Ability to lift 50 pounds
  • Ability to comfortably climb ladders, work on high lifts, platforms and scaffolding
  • Physical activity including twisting, sitting, bending, lifting, climbing stairs
  • Excellent manual dexterity
  • Experience with/certification in driving a forklift and/or scissor lift; and rigging heavy objects
  • Flexible to work some evenings and weekends depending on The CJM’s calendar of exhibitions openings, and special events



The CJM’s public spaces have reopened and this position will require on-site work, following safety guidelines and protocols. As The CJM is in the process of reopening administrative offices, this role may have the ability for some remote work.


Application Process 

Email cover letter and resume to

Please indicate “Chief Preparator” in the email subject line


General Construction, General Creative Design, Project Management