Collections Fellow - Cranbrook Center for Collections & Research (3/1/2021)

Decorative Arts Trust Resident Collections Fellows 

2021-2023 Fellowship Focus: Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Smith House and its Collection of Mid-Century Modern Decorative Arts

Compensation: $15 per hour, which equates to $30,000 annually

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is accepting applications for its 2021-2023 Decorative Arts Trust Resident Collections Fellow. This is a unique opportunity for an emerging museum or historic house curator with a passion for decorative arts and architecture history to play a leading role in the preservation and interpretation of Cranbrook’s diverse historic collections and built environment. This post-graduate fellowship, which provides a professional bridge to long-term curatorial careers, includes a modest apartment on Cranbrook’s campus.

The Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research centralizes Cranbrook’s 116-year story and offers intellectual engagement with its legacy. Publicly launched in 2012, the Center encompasses the management and curatorial leadership of all of Cranbrook’s collections, Cultural Properties, Archives, historic architecture (most notably Cranbrook House, Saarinen House, and Smith House), and cultural landscapes. By preserving and interpreting the community’s unparalleled landscape, architecture, collections, and archives, the Center provides memorable educational experiences and meaningful research opportunities for internal and external audiences. The Center’s offices are housed within both Cranbrook House and Cranbrook Art Museum, where the Center is able to take advantage of the new state-of-the-art Collections Wing. The public operation of Cranbrook Archives, which is a key component of the Center, is located within the Collections Wing of the Art Museum.

Reporting directly to the Center’s Director, and working collaboratively with the staffs of the Center (including the Archives) as well as Cranbrook’s Art Museum, Institute of Science, and Schools, the Center Collections Fellow researches collections and assists with the development of their documentation, accessioning, storage, care, conservation, and inventory, as well as their display and interpretation within the context of Cranbrook House (the founders’ 1908 Albert Kahn-designed manor home), Smith House (a 1950 Usonian house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), interventions within Saarinen House (Eliel Saarinen’s 1930 Art Deco masterwork), and small campus-wide exhibitions; develops and organizes collections-based educational programs for Cranbrook Schools; develops lectures and tours for regional audiences, such as the Center’s popular Day Away bus tours; assists with visiting researchers; develops the representation of the Center’s collections and programs on the Center’s website and through the Center’s blog (“Cranbrook Kitchen Sink”); and provides private tours of the campus, including Cranbrook House, Saarinen House, and Smith House.

The Center’s 2021-2023 Decorative Arts Trust Collections Fellow will focus primarily on researching the decorative arts collection housed in Smith House. Developed between 1950 and 1984 by the home’s builders and owners, school teachers Sara and Melvyn Smith, the collection includes the original Frank Lloyd Wright-designed furniture and a broad collection of midcentury modern textiles, studio glass and woodworking, ceramics, and housewares. Many of the objects were created by artists associated with Cranbrook Academy of Art, including Paul Evans, Maija Grotell, Glen Michaels, Marshall Fredericks, and others. Research will culminate in a comprehensive inventory and contextual essay written by the Fellow for the Center’s planned monograph on Smith House. This work will be enriched by the Fellow’s continuation and development of a Smith House oral history program, formal accessioning of the objects associated with the house, and presentation of the objects on the Center’s website.

The 2021-2023 Decorative Arts Trust Collections Fellow also will be involved in several other major Center projects: the development of plans to restore and expand a 1925 Albert Kahn-designed home on Cranbrook’s campus into the new home of the Center and Archives; the rehabilitation of Cranbrook’s 1915 Japanese Garden; the continued development of the Center’s website; and the development and planned implementation of a research journal.

The ideal candidate should have an M.A. in decorative arts, art history, architecture history, material culture, or a related field (completion of M.A. coursework required), with an emphasis on late 19th- through mid-20th-century art and architecture and a specialty/interest in decorative arts and design; demonstrated object-based research and interpretation skills; outstanding speaking, writing, and editing skills; attention to detail; strong computer skills (Microsoft Office, particularly PowerPoint); and collections database experience (TMS preferred). Previous curatorial experience or internships preferred.

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research is a part of Cranbrook Educational Community, which includes its Schools, the Academy of Art, an Art Museum, an Institute of Science, and Cranbrook House & Gardens. Located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, twenty miles north of downtown Detroit, Cranbrook’s 319-acre campus is a National Historic Landmark District that welcomes tens of thousands of museum visitors each year to the Institute of Science, Art Museum, and three historic houses. Cranbrook also is home to more than 1,600 students in grades pre-K through 12 attending Cranbrook Schools and nearly 150 graduate Academy students.

The 24-month fellowship ideally will begin in July 2021 (although earlier or later start-dates will be considered) and continue for twenty-four months through June 2023. Compensation is $15 per hour, which equates to $30,000 annually based on a full-time work schedule, with a modest apartment on Cranbrook’s campus provided (no pets or smoking permitted). This position is eligible for Cranbrook’s Blue Cross Blue Shield Simply Blue medical plan. Applications will be reviewed until position is filled with priority given to applications received by March 1, 2021.

Send letter (including Fellowship and career goals), résumé, writing sample, list of references, and completed Cranbrook Employee Application (which can be downloaded from the Employment page of our website at to: Cranbrook, Human Resources, P. O. Box 801, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48303-0801, or email Cranbrook is an equal opportunity employer and strives to provide a work environment that welcomes diversity.

Posted on 1/12/2021

The Michigan Museums Association is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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Michigan Museums Association       313-334-7643       PO Box 5246, Cheboygan, MI 49721

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