Art Museum Curator: Duties & Salary

Art historians bring art to the masses in their positions as art museum curators.  From large to small museums or art galleries, curators are responsible for teaching us about the art of past civilizations, the work of worldwide artists, the modern artist’s perspective, and so much more. They decide on artworks and create collections to help everyone love and appreciate art.

What does an art museum curator do?

Art museum curators are responsible for every beautiful piece of art seen in a museum. These artworks are determined and acquired by the art museum curator who then designs their placement in the museum. Curators even authorize the loaning out of the museum’s artwork. To get the community to experience the new collections of art, curators create events such as workshops and lectures to develop public awareness. In this way, they play the part of a publicity professional because they help bring patrons to the museum. Art curators of small museums are responsible for these duties and responsibilities but in a larger museum there is more than one curator. Each curator is responsible for a specific collection which they maintain and make decisions about how the art is displayed. The other curators are responsible for administrative duties and/or research on the pieces of artwork in the museum. Art museum curators typically specialize in a specific type of art from photography to sculpture. Those at larger museums will have the opportunity to take responsibility for their area of specialty.

In addition to these responsibilities and duties, art museum curators write catalog descriptions for the artwork in the exhibit, ensure the works on display are safe, verify authenticity, and convince private art collectors to donate to the museum for a designated amount of time for a collection. Other tasks could include publicity, promotion, writing and reviewing grant proposals, and attending events in the interest of the museum.

How much is an art museum curator paid and what kinds of art museum curator jobs can I get?

In 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for curators was $46,300, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $80,000 annually. They also reported that, in 2007, museum curators made more than $80,700 for the year. In times where there are few curator positions, those seeking employment may have to take positions as interns, volunteer assistant curators, research assistants, or get a part time position at a museum. Those in museum curator positions may have to move from museum to museum to gain experience in the field, which will open up the doors to higher positions.

Career paths for art historians include antiquarian book trade, artist representative, art appraiser, antiques dealer, art law, collection manager, freelance collection manager, architectural conservation, art librarian, art writer, teacher, art advisor, corporate curator, visual resource curator, and curatorial consultant. These are career paths and areas that art historians can pursue in addition to a career as an art museum curator in a museum or art gallery.