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JOB POSTING: H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American History

Wednesday, April 05, 2023 7:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

The Huntington Library posted a new job position for H. Russell Smith Foundation Curator of Western American History. For full information, check out their website. 

Job Description

About the Role

The Huntington Library seeks a Curator of Western American History to serve as a creative and collaborative professional in stewarding, developing, and interpreting its exceptional collection of manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and maps pertaining to the history of the trans-Mississippi West. The collections in this area have been thoughtfully developed over the last century and remain a major focus of the institution. The Library holds 400 manuscript collections that pertain to the West, as well as hundreds of thousands of printed and graphic items.

The Curator of Western American History is part of the Library’s unified Curatorial Department staff. S/he/they report to the Head of the Library Curatorial Department and will work closely with other curators with intersecting collection areas and scholarly expertise, including those in the Huntington’s Art Museum.

The collections in this area geographically extend from Alaska and the Canadian Northwest, south to the borderlands of the United States and Mexico, and across the continent from the Mississippi and throughout the Pacific Rim. Chronologically, resources span the 16th century to the early 21st. The topical and thematic strengths of the collections relate to missionary practices among Indigenous populations; immigrant diasporas and populations; overland migration and settler colonial exploration and settler impulses; warfare and violence; and Latter-Day Saint migrations to the Intermountain and Far West, as well as into the Pacific. Materials on mining, water, the gold rush, railroads, corporate histories, banking and finance, migrations, and demography record the growth of urban and suburban centers in the West. Recent collecting concentrates on the transformation of the West in response to tourism, recreation, and leisure across the last century and a half.

The Huntington welcomes over one million visitors each year to its gardens, art galleries, and library exhibition halls, while also facilitating one of the largest scholarly fellowship programs in the United States. The Library’s reading rooms welcome 1700 visitors conducting research in the collections each year, with some 300 readers working in the field of Western American History. The successful candidate will demonstrate a background of working directly with people from diverse racial, ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, using a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible approach. The successful applicant will also demonstrate an understanding of the role of special collection resources in contemporary scholarship, as well as an aptitude for the focused acquisition of collection materials in this field, and their imaginative interpretation through public exhibition for diverse audiences.

Essential Duties

  • Stewards and develops the Library’s extensive rare and special collections in Western American History through gift and purchase, and informs the development of the general reference collections in this area.

  • Interprets collections for the widest possible audiences (from scholars to the general public) through exhibitions, academic lectures, public talks, tours, conferences, publications, digital initiatives, and outreach activities.

  • Provides research and reference assistance for the collection to users (in person and electronically) and participates in the review of Huntington fellowship applications for appropriateness to the collections.

  • Works with Library Directory, Advancement staff, Library Director, and Head of Library Curatorial to identify and steward donors and to win and implement grants useful to the collections and the institution.

  • Works closely with the ACMe (Acquisitions, Cataloging & Metadata) team responsible for the creation of access tools on collection priorities and the appropriate level of description for catalog records and finding aids, based upon an understanding of the materials and scholarly and research needs.

  • Works with Reader Services to promote and develop tools to improve access and understanding of the collections, like LibGuides.

  • Establishes priorities and initiates projects for the preservation and conservation of collections, in collaboration with the Head of Preservation, Preservation staff, and the Head of Library Curatorial.

  • Advises colleagues in Education and Public Programs on appropriate interpretation of content and participates in programs across the institution.

  • Keeps current with relevant historiographical concerns, issues, developments, and trends in professional communities.

  • Represents the Library and contributes to appropriate professional organizations at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

  • Contributes to departmental, division, and institution-wide activities and initiatives in collaboration with colleagues and support staff.

Candidate Requirements and Experience

Knowledge, skills, and abilities:

  • Specific subject knowledge of the histories of the American West usually obtained through a

  • PhD (preferred) or advanced degree in a relevant discipline (History, American Studies, Anthropology, etc.)

  • Demonstrated experience conducting advanced research with archival collections and primary sources.

  • Familiarity with library and archival standards, experience with copyright, and managing restricted collections, obtained through an MLIS degree or equivalent experience.

  • Knowledge of the rare book and manuscript trade.

  • Excellent organizational, analytical, oral, and written communication skills, including public speaking skills.

  • Reading knowledge of a non-English language relevant to the region and history of the American West.

  • Understanding of preservation issues common in special collection libraries.

  • Ability to effectively prioritize competing tasks and excel in a fast-passed, demanding, and engaging research library with a public mission.

  • Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work with a diverse group of colleagues, researchers, donors, and other individuals and communities.

  • Demonstrated collegiality, professional contributions, and a record of collaboration.


  • A minimum of 5 years of professional work experience in special collections or a research library.

  • Experience in acquiring rare materials.

  • Experience with digitization and digital humanities projects.

  • An established record of scholarly and professional contributions.

Working Conditions

  • Normal office environment.

  • Some weekend and evening work is required.

  • Some travel, locally, nationally, and internationally is required.

Compensation & Benefits

We provide competitive compensation, generous benefits and perks for all eligible employees including:

  • Pay Range: $85-90k annually. Negotiable and commensurate on experience.

  • Medical, Dental, Vision

  • 403(b) basic retirement plan and optional matching retirement plan with an outstanding employer match

  • Hybrid remote work schedule available for applicable positions

  • Considerable paid time off, including annual leave, sick leave, and holidays

  • Discounts for staff in The Huntington Store and restaurants

  • Access to the Museums Council pass, which grants free admission to various museums and cultural institutions

  • Free passes each month to welcome family and friends to visit the grounds

The Application Process

Please submit a cover letter and CV/resume as a single PDF attachment. 

You will have the opportunity to submit additional documents on the “My Experience” section of the application

Western History Association

University of Kansas | History Department

1445 Jayhawk Blvd. | 3650 Wescoe Hall

Lawrence, KS 66045 | 785-864-0860 

The WHA is located in the Department of History at the University of Kansas. The WHA is grateful to KU's History Department and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their generous support!