What is a curator anyway, and what does she do?

I used to be an art museum curator, and often people would ask me what that was.  Here is as good a definition as I’ve ever found:

The job of the curator has also changed. Today they are counted on for publicity appearances, special events, Web site management, interactive displays, programming, grant writing, and exhibition planning as never before, as well as the constant courting of potential patrons. There is little time left over for scholarly research or acquisitions. Loan requests from other museums are a constant workload on the curator’s desk, and while these help shore up goodwill in the interests of comparable loans from the borrowing institution.

The recent trend for the building of branch museums, such as the MFA’s in Nagoya, Japan, which opened in 1999, adds further pressures to the collection as a whole. Artworks are the museum’s ultimate “cash cow.” They are also the stars of the collection in the eyes of many visitors, who all too often cannot count on finding them on view because of the persistent demands for their appearances elsewhere. As box office attractions, special exhibitions rule the day. The greater number, and greater size, of museums in America also mean increasing competition for loans.

Rathbone, Belinda (2014-10-13). The Boston Raphael: A Mysterious Painting, an Embattled Museum in an Era of Change & A Daughter’s Search for the Truth (Kindle Locations 4204-4210). David R. Godine, Publisher. Kindle Edition.


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