What Does a Museum Curator Really Do? Insights for Art History Students in Rome

Study in Italy for access to this art curator career.

Are you a master planner who loves to organize events, take charge of a team, and juggle several tasks at once? Like the idea of combining your natural organizational skills with your love of art and art history?

Becoming a museum curator could be your ideal professional path, offering ways to apply your art education while sharing your passion with enthusiastic audiences.

Official museum curator job descriptions say that they research, collect, care for, interpret, and document objects, and organize displays and exhibitions.

But what does that mean in real terms; how do these responsibilities translate into everyday activities, interactions, and challenges? What unique skill set does the museum curator draw upon?

Read on for a more detailed description of what museum curators actually do, and find out of this could really be your dream job!

Planning & Designing Museum Exhibitions

From deciding on the broad theme of an upcoming show, to writing the captions and labels that describe each collected object, curators are involved in every stage of a museum exhibition.

Curators at smaller institutions typically design exhibits on their own, but at a large museum they will likely collaborate with a professional display designer (who will consult on everything from the sequencing of objects, to how securely they are supported, hung, or otherwise displayed).

The museum curator may also work with conservators to ensure for example, that works of art are properly maintained and protected, and that no element of the display (such as overly bright lighting) could damage them.

In addition to the logistical and practical concerns that accompany exhibition-planning, curators will also consider audience experience and atmosphere. She might, for example, invest time selecting the perfect music to accompany the show, and arrange for the rights to use it.

Art history students with an eye for interior design are particularly well suited to create ideal spaces that can inspire audiences to experience art works in entirely new and exciting ways.

Collecting Works of Art for Upcoming Shows

Curators have to research, locate, and negotiate the acquisition of art works they want to include in upcoming shows.

Typically art objects will be provided on loan by another institution, quite possibly in another country – so curators will draw upon their knowledge of various collections around the world, as well as other languages to coordinate the retrieval of pieces for their own exhibitions.

Museum curators will also organize the safe delivery of art objects, as well as verify their authenticity and condition upon arrival. This can present some unique challenges!

Imagine booking airplane and truck transport for a delicate sculpture or enormous canvas? In order to ensure the safe passage of particularly sensitive or valuable items, curators will travel with the art object, keeping a close eye on its handling from point A to point B.

Art history students who study in Italy are well on their way to developing the academic expertise, intercultural awareness, and international experience curators need to coordinate with professionals all across the globe.

Raising Funds & Marketing New Art Shows

Curation is about much more than designing exhibition spaces and finding art works to fill them. Museum curators are also savvy business people. They often serve as the face of the institution for which they work, and are expected to play a key role in public relations, marketing, and fundraising.

For example, curators typically consult on, or create, marketing materials to promote upcoming shows and attract attendees, including content for print ads and billboards, radio or television spots, online campaigns, and more.

Curators will also coordinate online versions of exhibitions with web developers and graphic designers to optimize them for online viewing.

And of course, they write grant applications and proposals in order to raise funds for the museum from both public and private sources.

Students who study art in Rome at John Cabot University are well prepared for the communications skills required of museum curators. JCU’s emphasis on research, analysis, argumentation, and creative thinking helps students learn to express themselves clearly, persuasively, and passionately.

Are you hoping to study art history in Italy and start your journey toward a career in art?

Visit JCU to discover our Art History program, internship opportunities, and beautiful campus in the heart of Rome!

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