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Oversee exhibits at a museum or art gallery.

Salary Range

$39,590 - $72,790

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

What does a Curator do?

Museums, art galleries, and historical societies would all be large, empty places without the work of curators. These professionals obtain the items that those organizations like to show off, and then arrange them into meaningful displays.

If you’re working for a small organization, then you might be the only curator on staff. Larger organizations might need more than one curator, though, and if you’re employed in one of these places, you might specialize in a particular time period or art form.

Exhibits might contain items from your organization’s collection, but borrowing objects from other groups might make your exhibits even more meaningful. Offering up your museum’s treasures in return might convince reluctant partners to share.

When all of the items have arrived, you lock yourself away in your office to play the role of tortured writer. You discuss where each item was made or why it’s important, and you place these notes in flyers, handouts, plaques, and audiotapes. Sometimes, you write blatantly promotional advertisements to encourage people to see your exhibit in person.

Each item must occupy a fixed spot during the exhibit, and it’s your job to arrange it in an attractive manner. Valuable items must be protected from people who wish to steal or damage them, and you spend hours talking with security personnel about how to protect those treasures.

When the exhibit is up and running, you start planning for the next show. Reading trade journals, attending conferences, and surveying your guests can give you ideas. On weekends and holidays, you attend auctions to buy new objects for your museum’s permanent collection.

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