How to become a Museum curator...

Now I know this is not strictly a piece on Egyptian antiquity collections, but, in a week when I am trying to sort out where my 'second career' is actually taking me, this caught my eye...

"Landing his current job was not exactly part of a masterplan for Julien Parsons, head curator and senior collections officer at Exeter's award-winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM). "Like a lot of people, I stumbled into it," Parsons says. He studied archaeology at the University of York, but graduated wondering what to do next. After taking part in archaeological digs and some fieldwork, he began to look into a career in museums: "I've always been interested in the past, and displaying the past to people, so that was my starting route."
Parsons soon found a job as a cataloguer at Birmingham museum, and at the same time completed a post-graduate correspondence course in museum studies. Over the next few years, he moved from Birmingham to a curator's position in Sheffield, then got a job at Cheltenham museum: "I was starting to build up a portfolio of different jobs and tasks."
His broad experience led him to his current role at RAMM: "I started here in 2004 as curator of antiquities, which sounds like an appropriately antiquated title. I looked after the archaeological collection, then in 2005 I became the senior curator, so I now manage all the other curators. My role now is removed from directly dealing with managing the collections day-to-day; it's more at the strategic level, planning exhibitions and redevelopment work and things like that."
Forming working relationships with external organisations is vital: "It's about creating partnerships. There is lots of opportunity for us to work with the University of Exeter on projects and exhibitions. It works well. Academics have excellent ideas, and we can give them a public face and make them suitable for a general audience. That's a skill that museums can bring."
Those skills are what mark the real work of the curator out from what many imagine it to be. Selecting and caring for objects is part of the role, but perhaps the most important element is knowing how to present them in a way that will capture the public's imagination. It demands a certain showmanship, and Parsons' talent helped RAMM win the prestigious Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year in 2012. The judges said: "The Victorian aspirations to bring the world to Exeter are stunningly realised through some of the most intelligently considered displays on view in any museum in the UK."' - see the full article in the Guardian here


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