Working in a museum is a popular career or goal for many who are interested in archaeology. As we’re discovering, there are many different jobs within a museum for you to work in. Working as a curator is one of the more well known jobs, but what does it really entail?
The title of curator comes from the word ‘to care’. And that really sums this job up – you’ll be caring for collections at a museum.
This job can vary depending on what museum you work at – for example, at a larger, perhaps a national museum, you may work with a specific collection. Think of the British Museum or the National Museum of Scotland. These museums have many different galleries and collections, spanning different time periods and geographical locations. Working as a curator, you may be in charge of The Egyptian collection… the Near East gallery… the Early Peoples gallery. And within this, you may be in charge of others who work specifically within your area. Smaller, independent or local museums may not hire as many staff, or have as much material and as many separate collections. Therefore, as curator, you may be in charge of a wider area and more people.
In general, curators will be in charge of managing most aspects of their collections. This can include cataloguing the artefacts, storing them in the right conditions, acquiring new artefacts, research collections, and the display of collections to the public (whether that’s creating displays for the museum, or sharing the collection online and digitally). And those are just some of the jobs!
Sometimes, museums can share artefacts and even exhibitions – think back to your last visit at a museum. Did you notice some of the artefacts were missing and had signs to say ‘on loan to…’, or maybe your favourite artefact had a label to say ‘on loan from..’. Curators will be in charge of buying, selling and the loan of artefacts to and from other museums. It’s becoming popular to have travelling exhibitions too – right now, the National Museum of Scotland has an exhibition on the Tyrannosaurus, and The British Museum has the touring exhibition of Tutankhamun. Working as a curator, you’ll help to arrange these exhibitions too.
If you enjoy research, then this role may be good for you. Many curators, especially at larger museums will spend some of their time researching objects. If you’re in charge of a specific collection, then chances are you will be a specialist in this area. You will research the objects, and help to create the story that is told to the public.
Depending on how big the museum is, you may work in a team of curators, and you may have volunteers and assistants working with you. Some museums will have many different departments, such as education and learning departments, which you will have to work closely with.
If you are interested in becoming a curator, keep an eye on this page where we will shortly be sharing stories from people who work as a curator!
This text is here as a small introduction to working as a curator. If you work as a curator and would like to update this piece or write a piece for archaeo-logic then please get in touch. If you'd like to share a post with your day-to-day life in your job then send us a message!