NASA is more than astronauts exploring our galaxy. This agency has many extraordinary job occupations such as the exhibit specialist (GS-1010).
In this article we interview Christopher Todd Cannon, an Exhibit & Artifacts Manager, GS-1010, who works at Marshall Space Flight Center, located at Redstone Arsenal, AL.
There are 323 federal workers employed in the GS-1010 series according to FEDScope , OPM’s Federal Human Resources Data Bank. The largest employer is the Smithsonian Institute with 114 followed by the Departments of the Air Force, Army and Navy with 88. Small numbers are also employed by the VA, Department of Agriculture, NASA, and the National Records and Archives Administration.
Overview of the Exhibit Specialist Series (GS-1010)
According to the Position Classification Flysheet (TS-103, May 1991) for exhibit specialist series, GS-1010 states, “This series includes positions which supervise or perform work involved in planning, constructing, installing, and operating exhibits, the preparation of gallery space for exhibits, the preservation of historic buildings, or the restoration or preparation of items to be exhibited. The work requires a combination of artistic abilities, technical knowledge and skills, and ability to understand the subject matter concepts which assigned exhibits projects are intended to convey.”
Q&A with Christopher Todd Cannon
What does an Exhibits Manager actually do?
A large part of the excitement of working for NASA is educating and informing the American public about space exploration. Important to that process is communicating through many different methods. Marshall Space Flight Center has a communication organization focused on the public and NASA employees. Our Exhibit Shop is part of that capability at the Center. As manager, I work with a staff of graphic artists, exhibit technicians and model makers to design, produce and maintain exhibit components that tell the story of NASA. An exhibit can contain high fidelity models, specialized video presentations, large images of NASA technology and chairs & counters for staffers to hold discussions. Our Exhibit Shop is capable of metal and wood work, graphic design and printing, packaging items for shipping to events. My daily activities can include fielding requests for loan of our exhibit inventory to an event like a student science week at an elementary school along with filling needs for designing new exhibits for new NASA missions. I also listen to our experts in our Shop to understand what tools and supplies they need to support the requests we have agreed to support.
What is the most unique exhibit you have ever had to work on?
One of the more unique exhibits was displayed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. 2008 marked the 50th anniversary of the existence of NASA. The exhibit required displaying to the public the entire spectrum of work at the agency, which includes 10 field centers and many milestones of human history. I was part of a team responsible for exhibits crossing many sciences and other aspects of aeronautics, human and non-human exploration. Displays included NASA history as well as work happening at the time of the event. The scope and scale of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival makes it one of my memorable experiences.
What is the most challenging part of being an Exhibits Manager?
Managing a limited budget that can impact the size of our staff. We have talented craftsmen whose careers can be at risk if we don’t handle our funding and work load correctly.
Would you recommend an Exhibits Manager as a good career choice?
Yes – I never have a dull day and the rewards of working with such talented people are a great benefit.
What else would you like to add about the job as an Exhibits Manager?
When the right topic and NASA staffers are matched, no other method of communication educates and inspires like an effective exhibit.
Occupational Information from the Position Classification Flysheet (TS-103) for the Exhibits Specialist Series
This series covers positions involved in the production of models or exhibits for cultural, educational, informational, scientific, or technical purposes.
(1) construct and operate museum or educational exhibits and galleries for displays;
(2) construct informational exhibits or models used as training aids;
(3) construct exhibits and accurate scale models used as evidence in the courts or as special equipment items in support of scientific experiments or other operating activities of an agency; and
(4) construct informational exhibits and models for public events or special programs.
Generally, the work of exhibits specialists is governed by the following considerations:
— Exhibits must attract and maintain the attention of the viewer.
— Exhibits must be constructed to withstand vandalism and weathering, and be reinforced at points of wear and strain to reduce the need for maintenance.
— Exhibits must be adequately and aesthetically lighted.
— Susceptible items must be protected from damage caused by temperature changes or chemical reactions.
— Valuable items must be secure from loss.
— Exhibits must be designed to allow an orderly traffic flow and accessibility by the disabled and viewers of varying heights.
— Portable exhibits must be designed and built for sturdiness and for ease of disassembly, packing, shipping, and reassembly.
— Drawings must be maintained on the original design and any changes made so that repairs may be made quickly and accurately.
Occupational Outlook Handbook Information about Archivists
The Occupational Outlook Handbook also included information relevant to curators and museum worker. The information below is about the archivist only.
- Median Pay in 2015: $46,710 per year or $22.46 per hour
- Number of jobs as of 2014: 31,300
- Job Outlook for 2014-24: 7% (as fast as average)
Education Requirements (Archivist)
Archivists will need a Master’s degree in history, library science, archival science, political science, or public administration.
Licenses, Certifications and Registrations(Archivist)
Currently few employees require any certification for archivists. There is The Academy of Certified Archivists  that offers the Certified Archivist credential. To earn certification, candidates must have a master’s degree, have professional archival experience, and pass an exam and must renew this certification on regular basis.
Other Experience and Additional Training(Archivist)
Marketable experience can be gained by working part time, internships, volunteering, on or during getting education requirements. Additional experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, or restoration, and database management skills is necessary for full-time positions. Some large organizations, such as the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration  in Washington, DC, offer in-house training.
Top museum positions are highly sought after and are competitive.
Skills Required (Archivist)
- Analytical skills are needed to determine the origin, history, and importance of any of the objects they work with.
- Computer Skills are necessary for use in developing complex databases related to the materials that stored and require access.
- Organizational skills are for storage and easy retrieval of records and documents.
- Technical skills are used in historical objects that need to be analyzed and preserved.
Exhibitors and archivists have a unique skill set that helps to promote and educate the public on what exciting areas NASA is involved in.
Our next article will be a Q&A with Melvin McKinstry, (GS-0801), a Master Planner at Marshall Space Flight Center, located at Redstone Arsenal, AL.
- Angela D. Storey, Public Affairs Officer, Marshall Space Flight Center
- Photos provided by NASA
- NASA website: www.nasa.gov 
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- Employment: http://www.nasa.gov/about/career/index.html 
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