What is a Curator?

A curator is someone who oversees collections, such as artwork and historical items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution. Most work in museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, or historical sites.

What does a Curator do?

A curator is someone who oversees collections, such as artwork and historical items, and may conduct public service activities for an institution.

Many objects and documents are important or historically significant. Curators preserve and organize the display of these materials. The work of a curator typically involves the following:

  • Acquire, store, and exhibit collections
  • Select the theme and design of exhibits
  • Develop or set up exhibit materials
  • Design, organize, or conduct tours and workshops for the public
  • Attend meetings and civic events to promote the institution
  • Clean objects using cleansers, solvents, and soap solutions
  • Direct and supervise curatorial, technical, and student staff
  • Plan and conduct special research projects

Curators manage museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centres, and historical sites. The museum director often is a curator. Curators direct the acquisition, storage, and exhibit of collections, including negotiating and authorizing the purchase, sale, exchange, or loan of collections. They also may authenticate, evaluate, and categorize the specimens in a collection. Curators often oversee and help conduct the institution’s research projects and related educational programs.

Today, an increasing part of a curator’s duties involves fundraising and promotion, which may include writing and reviewing grant proposals, journal articles, and publicity materials. In addition, many curators attend meetings, conventions, and civic events.

Most curators specialize in a particular field, such as botany, art, or history. Those who work in large institutions may be highly specialized. A large natural history museum, for example, might employ separate curators for its collections of birds, fishes, insects, and mammals. Some curators take care of their collections, some do research related to items in the collection, and others do administrative tasks. In small institutions with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for a number of tasks, from taking care of collections to directing the affairs of the museum.

Are you suited to be a curator?

Curators have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also conventional, meaning they’re conscientious and conservative.

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What is the workplace of a Curator like?

Because most curators work in museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and historical sites, their working conditions vary. Some spend their time working with the public, providing reference assistance and educational services. Some curators conduct research or process records, which reduces the opportunity to work with others. Those who restore and set up exhibits or work with bulky, heavy record containers may lift objects, climb, or stretch.

Curators in large institutions may travel extensively to evaluate potential additions to the collection, organize exhibits, and conduct research. However, for curators in small institutions, travel may be rare.

Curators are also known as:
Museum Curator Collections Curator Curator of Collections Exhibitions Curator Exhibits Curator