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Featured Career: Curator

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

Moai statue on Easter Island with red lava filter

“Hey, Dum-Dum!”- said the giant talking rock to a perplexed Ben Stiller.

While we know you’re no Dum Dum, would it surprise you to find out that the giant talking rock portrayed in the hilarious “Night at the Museum” is in reality, a real artifact called Moai?

In short, Moʻai’s are monolithic human figures believed to be carved between the years 1250 and 1500 CE by the Rapa Nui people. Located in Eastern Polynesia, the Easter Island Head displayed in the famous motion picture is only one of the many exhibits available for public display at the Museum of Natural History. Remarkably enough, the individuals who play a synonymous role with Stiller’s phenomenal character portrayal are called "Curators".

The best curators have an insatiable passion for all things art. Usually, they are in charge of managing collections for museums, foundations, and/or galleries. These collections can be archaeological findings, notorious paintings, sculptures, statues, tapestries, and even art videos. In addition, they are responsible for writing labels, catalog essays, and interpreting different works of art with very delicate and precise care.

Blue Whale Skeleton on display at a museum

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Curators who possess an irrefutable solemnity and love for their work may decide to dive even deeper into their roles by publishing research and information into journals, catalogs, and educational books. Their passion allows them to make it their mission to play an active role in the art community, as well as implement and oversee educational programs, helping to cultivate financial donors and bring profits to their organization.

Constant engagement with the general public is a necessity, as the ultimate goal should be to provide useful education and resources to tourists and art collectors. For this reason, curators must possess a charismatic personality, while still being able to convey important information. Commonly, time is balanced working at a desk and out on the floor. For some roles, heavy lifting and climbing ladders or scaffolding may be required in the restoration of objects and specific works of art. Schedules are usually set at 40-60 hour work-weeks, including weekend staff rotations.

African Elephant on display in a museum

While most curator roles require a Master's degree in art history or museology, smaller galleries may only require a bachelor's degree in “Art” or “Art History”. On average, a minimum of 3-5 years of experience is desired to be knowledgeable in the museum industry. Many individuals start off working as assistants and technicians, prior to being offered a more complex role. Average salaries range from $53,000 to more than $86,480 per year.

Money may or may not be the driving factor to pursue this fascinating profession, but in the end- Happiness is usually achieved by doing what you love and loving what you do. Pablo Picasso once quoted “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth”. If his words are in fact accurate, welcome to inception.

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