Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Museum Curating

The curators work on display at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery..

Culture Professionals Network, ‘People think curating just means choosing nice things’ – secrets of the museum curators The Guardian, 23 January 2016

From Tudor piss-pots to Botticellian nymphs, four curators reveal their favourite objects and what their job really entails

Daniel Martin, curator of making, and Lucy Bamford, curator of art, Derby Museums

Tell us something we don’t know about being a museum curator

Daniel: Probably most things. The most common follow-up question when I tell people what I do for a living is: “Great! What’s that then?” It’s quite hard to answer. We don’t spend all day lurking in musty stores any more; it’s all about people. It’s their stories and complexity that really make collections pop.

Lucy: A popular misconception concerns museum gloves. We rarely use white cotton gloves. Nowadays we use synthetic rubber ones, which make your hands sweat. It’s not as glamorous as it might appear.

What career insight would you give to an aspiring curator?

Daniel: Nothing is as important when you’re starting out as gaining experience. An undergraduate and postgraduate degree is a wonderful foundation, but employers will see it as just that. Experience gained via volunteering, internships and work placements will always be preferred over a degree from a prestigious university.

With government cuts facing our sector over the coming years, make sure that being a curator is something to which you’re totally committed. There will be lots of short-term contracts and project-related work throughout your career. Curating is no longer a suitable choice for those seeking long-term stability.

Lucy: Be open-minded and prepared to dig deep often for creative solutions to an unimaginable range of problems and issues. It’s not easy, but it is rewarding.

No other job has given me the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and learn so many new things. Working in a museum has given me a connection to people – to the rest of humanity – that I never had before.

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