museum curator

How to become museum curator

What does a museum curator do?

Museum curators are responsible for managing collections of objects of artistic, scientific, historical and general interest. In a large museum they might be involved in one specialism, while in a small general museum they have broader responsibilities. The main part of the role is to acquire objects, and to research, identify, and catalogue them, usually on a computer. Curators are also responsible for ensuring correct storage conditions.

Providing information is an important part of the job. This can include organising displays, writing descriptions of objects, answering visitors’ questions and giving talks to local groups or school parties. As museums are part of the leisure industry, information combines entertainment and education and must be presented in an appealing and accessible way. Attracting visitors is crucial to the work.

Other duties include looking after staff issues, security and insurance, and deciding on policy.

What's the working environment like for a museum curator?

Museum curators usually work 36 to 37 hours a week on a rota, probably including some weekends. Part-time hours may be available.

The environment depends on the type of museum and how busy it is, but the work is usually indoors.There may be some lifting and carrying involved, moving crates and boxes of exhibits. A driving licence is often necessary.

What does it take to become a museum curator?

To be a museum curator you should have:

  • a keen interest in the past and in the specialist area you’re working in
  • good organisational ability
  • the ability to run a department or establishment
  • accuracy for cataloguing objects
  • computer skills for information retrieval
  • decision-making and numerical skills for planning, administration and handling budgets
  • creative flair for devising displays and exhibitions
  • strong communication skills
  • an understanding of how to make information accessible to the wider public, including tourists, people with disabilities, various education groups and schools.

Paid and unpaid work is available, which is a great way to get experience and a foot in the door. You can also gain entry though an apprenticeship. 

You will normally be expected to have a degree and postgraduate qualification in subjects like:

  • Museum and heritage studies
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Education

Museum curator career opportunities

Employers include national museums funded by the government, regional and local museums funded by local authorities, university museums, and independent and specialist museums.You may need to move around the country to gain experience and progress, especially if working in a smaller museum with fewer opportunities for promotion.

There may also be opportunities to work overseas.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Museum Curator that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Museums Association
24 Calvin St
E1 6NW

Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Victoria House
Southampton Row
Tel: 020 7273 1444


Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 0800 093 0444

Creative and Cultural Skills
11 Southwark St

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