The dictionary definition of a museum curator is someone who manages and oversees a collection of objects, most commonly in a cultural institution, e.g., museum, library, gallery, or archive.
We like to think of this person as the keeper (and storyteller) of our world’s most important historical and cultural objects and narratives.
Museum Curator Job Description
Museum curators typically manage an institution’s collections (large museums often have more than one curator), specifically, the acquisition, care and display of their institution’s objects.
Museum curators are also responsible for managing and presenting their collections in a way that informs and educates the public.
Check out this sample job description for a Curator/Collections Manager at Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum:
- Curator: Creates & maintains master exhibition schedule; selects or creates exhibits from both loaned items and permanent collections; prepares & hangs exhibit (including interpretive materials); coordinate and manage logistics related to the installation of the exhibit and return of loaned items; produces quarterly exhibition brochure. Also coordinates annual off-site Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival exhibit: manages judging process, hanging of exhibit, and the return of pieces following the event.
- Collections Manager: Maintains records on all permanent collection items, including acquisition/de-accession records and condition reports; organizes and maintains collections storage area(s); manages collections loan process.
- Other duties include but not limited to: assist with informing the public regarding the Museum, the collection, and exhibits; oversee two or more volunteer committees or task groups; coordinate exhibit-related Opening and/or Artist Receptions; provide exhibit or collections related content for Member Magazine, website, and social media; assist with grant proposals and institutional reports, as requested.
Museum Curator Salary
Most museum curator salaries fall in the range of $33,000K to and $97,000K /year (with an average of $57K). It’s important to note that the salary very much depends on the size of the museum, the type of museum, the collection, location and similar factors.etc.
Here are some examples of salaries from past museum curator jobs on museum.jobs:
- Curator/Collections Manager at Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum
- $30,000 – $33,000 /year
- Curator of the Western History Collections at The University of Oklahoma
- $60,000- $75,000 /year
- Assistant Curator of Creative Photography at Center for Creative Photography, in Tucson, Arizona
- $47,000 /year
Museum Curator Education Requirements
To become a museum curator you typically need, either a PhD in a relevant field, like specialism,e.g., classical studies, ancient history, anthropology, or archaeology, and/or a Masters in museum and/or gallery studies.
Related work experience such as internships and/or volunteer work are also required and highly valued!
Check out these awesome schools and related programs:
- M.A. in Museum Studies at The University of San Francisco’s College of Arts & Sciences
- Ph.D. in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University in New York City
- M.A. of Science in Museum & Field Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder
If you want to work at a large museum, you should take into consideration that the role of curator is often broken down into a variety of different individual professions, such as interpretation, education, and conservation.
If you want to experience ALL of the different aspects of curation you’ll want to look for work in a small museum as it will likely be more hands-on and you will get the opportunity to manage EVERY aspect of the collection.