You are here

Chicago Botanic Garden-Director, Interpretation-Wed, 01/20/2021 - 12:17pm

Director, Interpretation


Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022
Glencoe , IL 60022
United States
Illinois US

Employment Type

Job Categories

Job Details

Job Description 

Requisition Number: 811
Department: Learning and Engagement
Job Status: Year-Round
Hours: Full-time
Reports to: Vice President of Learning and Engagement

The Chicago Botanic Garden is looking for a creative thinker and exceptional storyteller with demonstrated success in leading multidisciplinary teams and developing compelling narratives for use across multiple channels and contexts. The Interpretation Director is responsible for working collaboratively with communications, public programs, horticulture, and science to establish an institutional point of view and related interpretative framework for the Chicago Botanic Garden with a particular eye to representing multiple cultural perspectives. This individual will then be responsible for realizing that framework through traditional and emerging interpretive modalities and approaches. The person in this role will tell the complex and many-layered stories of the Garden’s collections, programs, exhibitions, and annual themes, using both historical context and current, socially relevant, frames of reference.

Duties & Responsibilities 

In this role you will be responsible for the following:

Lead the cross-departmental process for developing the Garden’s interpretive framework and point of view in communicating to the public.
Develop both Garden-wide and exhibition-specific strategies for interpretation that prioritize visitor engagement through reflection, creative participation, and empowering experiences.
Ensure interpretation embodies the Garden’s mission and strategic plan and welcomes all audiences by honoring their many cultures, abilities, backgrounds, and lived experiences.
Work collaboratively with public programs, communications, science, and horticulture to establish interpretive goals and storylines for mission-based exhibitions (e.g. Orchid Show), programs, and annual themes.
Evaluate interpretive efforts to understand the educational, cultural, and social impacts on visitors, including front-end, formative, remedial, and summative evaluation using appropriate metrics and methods.
Lead independent interpretive projects across the Garden as needed, including content research, storytelling approaches, and modes of delivery.
Work with the interpretation manager, communications, and editorial staff to develop gallery panels, labels, and other interpretive texts, including multimedia.
Implement new interpretive approaches, including but not limited to installations, response mechanisms, printed pieces, and digital tools.
Work with internal and external experts at the outset of each project to ensure inclusive access.
Work with internal and external experts to ensure all relevant perspectives are being represented authentically and in culturally appropriate ways.
Supervise the Interpretation Manager, including ensuring they train and oversee docents interpreting the Greenhouses, Thomas English Walled Garden, Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, and Malott Japanese Garden), oversee Plant Giveaways and Discovery Carts and annually review and update tram and walking tour scripts, and research and write interpretive copy.
Oversee Garden-wide ephemeral signage content, production, and installation, including seasonal signage, annual themes, and special requests.
Key Garden competencies/behaviors desired

Communicates in a manner that gains the trust and support of others at all levels.
Works effectively with others despite differences of opinion and style; builds alliances.
Has a tolerance for opposing points of view.
Strives for collaboration. Works cooperatively, as a positive contributor to the team.
Demonstrates a positive attitude and shows kindness in all workplace interactions.
Makes decisions appropriate for level of responsibility.
Can effectively adapt to change; can shift gears comfortably; is flexible, and embraces change with a “can-do” attitude.
Is self-aware; knows personal strengths and weaknesses; seeks feedback and is open to negative feedback as an opportunity for improvement.
Is cool under pressure; can be counted on to hold things together during tough times; can handle stress; is not knocked off balance by the unexpected; is a settling influence during a crisis.
Recognizes problems, constructively identifies and articulates solutions.
Picks up garbage when it is seen regardless of position.
Follows safety guidelines to ensure a safe working environment and consistently demonstrates safe work behaviors.
Is welcoming of new hires.

Education and Experience 

Our ideal candidate will have the following:


A graduate degree in interpretation, museum studies, science communication, or equivalent
Ten to 15 years of practical experience in exhibition development and interpretation
Demonstrated understanding of best practices and emerging approaches to interpretation and narrative storytelling
Demonstrated ability to take a multidisciplinary approach to interpretation and content development by incorporating science, history, social science, and the arts to tell complex and complete stories
Demonstrated ability to lead cross-departmental teams and to coordinate efforts between curators, editors, designers, and other stakeholders
Experience designing evaluative research and assessing visitor experience outcomes
Experience with developing powerful communication materials for mission-driven organizations
Experience developing content for usage across a variety of outputs/channels
Exceptional written and verbal communication skills
Leadership and project management skills, including budgeting


Experience managing staff and volunteers
Science communications experience
Background in environmental science, conservation science, or related field
Spanish language proficiency

Physical Demands:
Primarily office setting, with some fieldwork required. Frequent sitting, standing, walking, bending, listening, speaking, and keyboarding. Use of office equipment including computers, telephones, copiers, scanners, and fax machines. Some requirements for lifting, pushing, or pulling items less than 30 pounds. Some requirements for active outside gardening and teacher activities, including digging, planting, and shoveling.

Application Instructions 

To Apply: Visit our website:

Why Apply?:
Come work in a setting that is like no other as you support our mission: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life. Take the first step toward being one of the employees who make the Garden one of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Apply today. Please note that applicants who do not meet the required qualifications will not be considered.

Disclaimer: The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this classification. They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities and qualifications required of personnel so classified.

We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and do not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, or basis of disability, or any other federal, state, or local protected class.

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Chicago Botanic Garden does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its programs or activities, including in employment or admissions.

Full Name 
Mj Kim