, care), means manager, overseer
Traditionally, a curator
of a cultural
institution (e.g., gallery
, or archive
a content specialist responsible for an institution's collections
. The object of a traditional
curator's concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some
sort, whether it be inter alia
artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.
More recently, new kinds of curators are emerging: curators of digital data objects
In smaller organizations, a curator may have sole responsibility
for the acquisition and care of objects. The curator will make
decisions regarding what objects to collect, oversee their care and
documentation, conduct research based on the collection, provide
of art for transport, and
share that research with the public and scholarly community through
exhibitions and publications. In very small volunteer-based
museums, such as local historical societies, a curator may be the
only paid staff member.
In larger institutions, the curator's primary function is as a
subject specialist, with the expectation that he or she will
conduct original research on objects and guide the organization in
its collecting. Such institutions can have multiple curators, each
assigned to a specific collecting area (e.g. Curator of Ancient
Art, Curator of Prints and Drawings, etc.) and often operating
under the direction of a head curator. In such organizations, the
physical care of the collection may be overseen by museum
collections managers or museum conservators, and documentation and
administrative matters (such as insurance and loans) are handled by
a museum registrar.
Kingdom, the term curator is also applied to government
employees who monitor the quality of contract archaeological work
under Planning Policy Guidance 16: Archaeology
and Planning and are considered to manage the cultural resource
of a region.
In the museum setting, a curator in the United
Kingdom may also be called a "keeper".
In the United States, the Board of Curators, which consists of nine
members appointed by the state governor, is the governing body of
the University of Missouri.
More recently, advances in new technologies have led to a further
widening of the role of curator. This has been focused in major art
institutions internationally and has become an object of academic
study and research.In contemporary
, the title curator is given to a person who selects and
often interprets works of art. In addition to selecting works, the
curator often is responsible for writing labels, catalog essays,
and other supporting content for the exhibition. Such curators may
be permanent staff members, be "guest curators" from an affiliated
organization or university, or be "freelance curators" working on a
consultant basis. The late twentieth century saw an explosion of
artists organizing exhibitions. The artist-curator has a long
tradition of influence. Notable among these was Sir Joshua Reynolds,
founder of the Royal
In some American organizations, the term curator is also used to
designate the head of any given division of a cultural
organization. This has led to the proliferation of titles such as
"Curator of Education" and "Curator of Exhibitions". This trend has
increasingly been mirrored in the United Kingdom in such
institutions as Ikon, Birmingham, UK and Baltic, Gateshead,
Australia and New Zealand, the person who prepares a sports ground for use
(especially a cricket ground) is
known as a curator.
This job is equivalent to that of
in some other cricketing
In France archive and museum curator posts are essentially reserved
for French citizens (European citizenship does not apply) and
recruitment is by special competition for state official service
Education and training
Traditionally, curators have held a higher academic degree in their
subject. For larger organizations this is typically a Doctor of Philosophy
. or a Master's degree
- in subjects such as
, or Classics
. Along with a higher degree, curators are
usually expected to have contributed to their academic field,
including, for example, delivering public talks, publishing
articles or presenting at specialist academic conferences. In
addition, curators need to have knowledge of the current collecting
market for their area of expertise, and be aware of current ethical
practices and laws that may impact their organisation's collecting
(see, for example Department of Culture, Media and Sport, UK.
Guidelines on Due Diligence)
Recently, the increased complexity of many museums and cultural
organisations has prompted the emergence of professional programmes
in field such as public history, museum
, arts management
curating/curatorial practice. In the last decade or so, many curating
courses have been established, including at the Royal College of
Art, The MA course was established in 1992, co-funded
by the Royal College of Art and the Arts Council of Great
It was the first postgraduate programme in Britain
to specialise in curatorial practice as it relates to contemporary
course is now funded by Arts Council England, and in 2001 the
course title was amended to Curating Contemporary Art, more
accurately to reflect the content and primary focus of the
University; Goldsmiths College,
University of London; Birkbeck, University of London; Chelsea
College of Art, University of the Arts London; California
College of the Arts; Bard
College; University of Rennes 2 – Upper
Brittany; and Ontario College of Art and
Design (see External Links for further
information on courses).
- Burcaw, G. (1997) Introduction to Museum Work, 3rd edition.
Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. ISBN 978-0-761-98926-4
- Bury, Stephen
(2004) 21st Century Curatorship. In: 21st Century
Curatorship, 22 July 2004, New York Public Library, New York,
- Ferguson, B., Greenburg, R. and Nairne, S. (1996)
Thinking About Exhibitions ISBN 0415115906.
- Glaser, J. and A. Zenetou. (1996) Museums: A Place to Work.
Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-12724-0
- Lord, G. and B. Lord. (1997) The Manual of Museum Management.
Lanham, MD: Altamira Press. ISBN 0-7591-0249-X
- Marincola, P. (2002)
Curating Now: Imaginative Practice/Public Responsibility ISBN
- Obrist, H. (2008) A
Brief History of Curating ISBN 390582955X.
- Rugg, J. and Segdwick, M (2007) Issues in Curating. Intellect.
- Richter, D. and Drabble, B (2007) Curating Critique. Revolver.
- Spalding, F. (1998) The
Tate: A History. Tate
Publishing. ISBN 1854372319.
- Sullivan, L. and Childs, S. (2003)
Curating Archaological Collections ISBN 0759100241.
- Thea, C. (2009) On
Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators ISBN