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Curator (from Latin cura, care), means manager, overseer.

Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., gallery, museum, or archive) is 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, and biocurators.

Curator responsibilities

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 proper packaging 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.

Other definitions

In the United Kingdommarker, 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 art, 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 Academymarker, London.

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, UK.

In Australia and New Zealandmarker, 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 groundsman in some other cricketing nations.

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 posts.

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 History, History of Art, Archaeology, Anthropology, 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 studies, arts management, and curating/curatorial practice. In the last decade or so, many curating courses have been established, including at the Royal College of Artmarker, The MA course was established in 1992, co-funded by the Royal College of Art and the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was the first postgraduate programme in Britain to specialise in curatorial practice as it relates to contemporary art. The 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 programme; Kingston Universitymarker; Goldsmiths College, University of London; Birkbeck, University of Londonmarker; Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London; California College of the Artsmarker; Bard Collegemarker; University of Rennes 2 – Upper Brittanymarker; and Ontario College of Art and Designmarker (see External Links for further information on courses).

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