Stanford University Photography Curator in Stanford, California


A strong candidate has been identified for this position.

Photography Curator, Department of Special Collections

The Department of Special Collections at Stanford University seeks an experienced, creative and effective curator for its growing and increasingly important photography acquisition program. Stanford Special Collections is reshaping and defining its photography collection development initiative to build on significant holdings of both historical and contemporary photography that support Stanford’s academic programs. Stanford collections for the study and appreciation of modern photography in the Americas benefit not just the Stanford program but also an international audience through its active acquisitions, exhibition, publication, and loan programs. The collections includes thousands of prints by hundreds of artists, as well as many photographic archive objects (negatives, contact sheets, manuscripts, other documentation, and photographer’s archives), oral history and other media materials, and a library of rare books, journals, artists’ books, and exhibition catalogs (in conjunction with Stanford’s Bowes Art & Architecture Library). The Photography Curator will work closely and collaboratively with other Stanford curators and bibliographers, and in particular with the Bowes Art & Architecture Library and the Cantor Arts Center. The incumbent will be responsible for expert curatorial/bibliographic functions, collection development and management, public service, and related technical processing.


Photography Program Development, Outreach & Oversight

  • Reports to the Director of the Department of Special Collections, is a member of the Department’s Division Heads Group, and collaborates with senior staff colleagues in advising the Director about all aspects of the programs priorities, policies, and operations in support of the Libraries mission, and in creating and prioritizing the Department’s annual strategic goals and budget. As the Department’s photography expert, assists with the formulation, development and administration of broad library policies, major programs and collections.

  • With the guidance of the AUL for Public Services and Collection Development and under the direction of the Director of Special Collections, formulates and develops the programmatic mission (strategic vision, policies, and priorities) for the Library’s expanding photography acquisition program.

  • Working actively with faculty, staff, and students, explores and proposes collaborative projects and opportunities for new library services utilizing the Libraries’ photography collections, exploring various options for better integration between the Libraries and the University’s academic units.

  • Continually evaluates and refines the strategic vision, policies, and priorities of the expanding photography program, especially within the context of all Stanford Libraries collections and initiatives.

  • Accountable for managing and performing advanced curatorial and bibliographic functions including appraisal (collection evaluation), teaching, and exhibitions (with publications).

  • Serve as liaison to University faculty and academic programs and the staff of the Cantor Arts Center as the Department’s photography expert.

  • Develops and maintains extensive contacts with a large and diverse regional, national, and international community of photographers, artists, scholars, curators, collectors, dealers, and organizations that comprises the photography community in order to actively promote the relevance and significance of the Stanford Libraries’ photography collections.

  • Attends and represents the Libraries at colloquia, meetings, conferences, and related gatherings of the photography community.

  • Is responsible for administering the photography program’s collections budget, including proposals for determining budgetary needs and staffing.

  • May be responsible for student employees.

Acquisitions Program

  • Regularly consulting with faculty, students, and senior staff of the Libraries, as well as members of the photographic community, identifies photographers and collections which are significant in the history of photography and where acquisition of materials will especially benefit research and instruction at Stanford.

  • Through knowledgeable analysis of existing photographic collections at Stanford, identifies and builds on current strengths and articulates areas where new collection initiatives will benefit Stanford academic programs.

  • Plans, initiates, negotiates, and executes acquisitions of significant archives, collections, and individual works through deposit, gift, and purchase.

  • Creates inventory documentation and prepares gift, purchase, and deposit agreements, collaborating with other senior staff of the Libraries as necessary. Acquisitions often involve complex legal agreements with artists, their heirs or representatives, and donors. Purchase, deposit, and gift arrangements may extend over several years.

Donor Development & Stewardship

  • Working closely with the Director and the Director of Development, cultivates support for the program through individual donor relations and fundraising activities in meetings and private events at Stanford and elsewhere, and behind-the-scenes tours of the Department and the Libraries.

  • Maintains an active stewardship program of regular contact with photography program donors and identifies prospective donors and supporters. Works closely with the Director and the Director of Development in all areas of stewardship and donor identification.

  • Monitors status of proposed annual gifts and short or long-term deposits to the Libraries, assisting donors in setting realistic dates for transfer of ownership titles. Ensures timely communication and the proper delivery of agreements and documentation between Stanford and its donors.

Collections Management & Processing

  • In consultation with Library Preservation Department, reviews loan requests from museums, galleries, libraries and other exhibition venues, negotiating the specifics of loan requests as required. Communicates with prospective lenders to Stanford for the borrowing of materials for Stanford Library exhibitions. Similarly, works closely with artists, heirs, and collectors to obtain artwork and archival material for loan to Stanford exhibitions.

  • Collaborates closely with other senior staff in Special Collections, DLSS, and Preservation, to set priorities for processing, digitization, preservation and conservation workflows for photography materials, and in the creation and maintenance of accurate documentation in the Department’s collection management system for photography materials.

  • Responsible for assisting with metadata and physical processing of photography collections on an as needed basis. Works with the Special Collections Assistant Director for Collection Services to establish data standards and carries out analytical work for significant aspects of the department’s photography operations, including registrar work as necessary.

Collection Access, Exhibitions, Publications & Other Scholarly Activities

  • Through regular outreach and contact with Stanford academic departments and programs, and in collaboration with the Cantor Arts Center, constantly seeks means by which the expanding photography program can support the existing research and instruction activities of the University and promote new scholarship and research opportunities for the University community and beyond.

  • Collaborating with faculty, identifies opportunities for presenting the Department photography collections in a broad variety of University classes. Collaborates with faculty and other senior staff in the development of curriculum utilizing the photography collections. Develops opportunities for individual directed scholarship and research by Stanford students using Stanford’s primary resource collections.

  • Initiates a close analysis of existing photography collections at Stanford and works to integrate those collections into existing and developing Special Collections programs.

  • In collaboration with other staff of the Libraries, creates a robust online presence for the photography program to highlight the collections, services and activities of the Libraries and its photography program. Is proficient in various online tools, including the Library’s SpotLight program, in order to create a variety of online experiences.

  • Curates or assists in the curation of occasional exhibitions of photographic materials at various Stanford venues, including the Green Library galleries and the Cantor Arts Center. Assist conservation staff and installation preparators as required. Write wall texts, label copy, and texts for brochures, press releases, and other promotional materials.

  • Interprets the collections for diverse audiences through public lectures, tours, and related programs.

  • Researches and writes on topics for exhibitions and publications based on the Libraries collections.

  • Other duties may also be assigned.



Education & Experience:

  • Master of Library Science degree and graduate degree in art history or related field with specialization in the history of North American photography and ten years of experience in a relevant library setting, demonstrating a high level of expertise and active engagement in their area of specialization at a national level or a combination of education and relevant experience. At least five years of experience acquiring significant collections, archives, works of art. Demonstrated success in negotiating complex acquisition agreements and purchases.

  • Extensive knowledge of the photographic medium, including materials, methods and techniques through hands-on study and interpretation of original materials.

  • Experience and success in donor relations and in working with development officers.

  • Experience preferred in curating exhibitions of photographs and photographic materials.

  • Record of publications and/or academic coursework that demonstrates significant knowledge of the history of photography, photograph collections, the history of collecting photographs, and the current state of scholarly communications about photography and the history of photography.

  • Excellent written & verbal communication skills. Excellent professional demeanor. Demonstrated ability to work and communicate with diverse people, collaboratively, proactively and constructively. Ability to work as a member of a team.

  • Willingness to conduct Stanford Libraries business through travel.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Recognition of substantial professional accomplishment both within and beyond Stanford is expected at this rank.

  • Ability to articulate the role of the Library within the University and with other cultural heritage organizations. Ability to act as liaison between the Library and University and external partners.

  • Ability to apply expert knowledge and substantial experience to selecting, acquiring, preserving, and/or providing access to scholarly resources.

  • Display an exceptionally high level of professional development and accomplishment.

  • Exercise a high level of initiative, sound judgment and leadership.

  • Evidence of specialized knowledge or advanced managerial/supervisory skills is expected.

  • Experience with identifying, evaluating, recommending, and implementing new service programs, technology, and complex work flows.

  • Demonstrated success in working across organizational lines to develop initiative proposals of considerable complexity; formulate plans for implementation, working to win support and funding, and moving their ideas to implementation.

  • Demonstrated expertise in independently performing complex job functions such as collection management reviews and preparation of major exhibits.

  • Evidence of leadership in relevant professional or academic communities and/or national or international recognition of their expertise.

  • Consistent display of excellent verbal and written communication skills, including strong presentation skills.

Other Relevant Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities May Include

  • Demonstrated ability to prioritize, meet deadlines, and problem solve.

  • Experience managing multiple simultaneous projects.

  • Knowledge of preservation and conservation issues pertaining to photographic collections.

  • Broad knowledge of library and museum practices, issues, and standards.

  • Experience in hiring, training, supervising and mentoring staff.

  • Reading knowledge of Romance language(s).


  • Constantly sit, perform desk-based computer tasks.

  • Frequently twist/bend/stoop/squat, grasps lightly/fine manipulation, grasp forcefully, sort/file paperwork or parts, lift/carry/push/pull objects that weigh up to 25 pounds.

  • Occasionally stand/walk, reach/work above shoulders, writing by hand, kneel/crawl, climb (ladders, scaffolds, or other).

  • Consistent with its obligations under the law, the University will provide reasonable accommodation to any employee with a disability who requires accommodation to perform the essential functions of the job.


  • May work in confined spaces and at heights 4-10 feet; be exposed to dust and mold; work extended hours, evenings and weekends.


  • Interpersonal Skills: Demonstrates the ability to work well with Stanford colleagues and clients and with external organizations.

  • Promote Culture of Safety: Demonstrates commitment to personal responsibility and value for safety; communicates safety concerns; uses and promotes safe behaviors based on training and lessons learned.

  • Subject to and expected to comply with all applicable University policies and procedures, including but not limited to the personnel policies and other policies found in the University’s Administrative Guide,

Stanford is an equal employment opportunity and affirmative action employer and is committed to recruiting and hiring without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

Job: Library

Location: University Libraries

Schedule: Full-time

Req ID: 78250

Job Grade: 1784