Career Profile: Museum Curator
People often say that an interest in history has little relation to any kind of paying work. How can anyone get a job by knowing when King Henry VIII lived or what people ate in the fourteenth century? However, museum curators are different. They get to work with books, papers and objects that show a region’s history and culture. Do you love history? Are you good at organizing things? You might want to consider becoming a museum curator when you finish school.
Curators work in many different places, from traditional museums and historic sites to zoos and botanical gardens. They might work with ancient Egyptian pottery or with recent videos and DVDs. Sometimes the objects they work with are tiny and light, such as rings and other pieces of jewelery. At other times, the exhibits are massive and heavy, such as ancient coffins or stone monuments.
What curators do every day depends on where they work. Much of the work requires strong organizational skills as curators take in new exhibits, label them, and decide what to display and what to leave in storage. Sometimes curators have to arrange for travelling shows to come to the museum. If an exhibit of Leonardo Da Vinci’s inventions is moving from place to place, for example, a curator might want to arrange to have it as a temporary exhibit in the local museum.
Curators have to make sure that items are properly displayed and stored. This is especially important for delicate exhibits that require special treatment, such as climate control or protection from insects. Curators have to be very careful to take good care of museum exhibits that are in their charge.
Besides taking care of the exhibits, museum curators need to be able to talk to people. They need to keep the people on the museum boards and committees informed about what is happening in the museum. They also need to make sure that members of the public know about which exhibits are being shown. They might help arrange school trips or community visits. If curators do their job well, they help other people become excited about history.
Most curators need more than just an interest in history to get a job in their field. A master’s degree in history or administration is helpful, but a university degree in museum and curatorial studies is even better. With that education, museum curators can make salaries between about $27,000 and $69,000 per year. Job prospects are often better in a big city than in a town, but a small, local museum might be a good place to gain experience.
History can come alive when the curators of museums work together with the boards, committees, staff, and the public to display interesting and meaningful exhibits. Do you have an interest in history? Do you love to explain your love of the past to others? You might want to consider pursuing a career as a museum curator.