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Museum Curator’s Secrets

We asked our Curator, Nicole Aszalos, to comment on this Guardian Article and share her Museum Curator’s secrets.

Image of Nicole holding an artifact from the collection
Nicole and a Birdstone

The Secrets of the Museum Curators from The Guardian is a well written article, with some of England’s top flight curators sharing thoughts on their careers. Although the article is not an in-depth discussion of the curatorial field, it does provide some effective and honest career insights for the aspiring curator. In the short article the curators also try to solve some misconceptions commonly associated with the profession.

Often when I say I am a curator, responses run along the lines of ‘Oh that’s interesting.. .What is that?” Now when we compound that on the fact that I am a curator at an archaeology museum, it can make for some interesting conversations due to the uniqueness of the position. The most common misconception about a curator’s role is that the majority of your time is spent doing exhibit design and selecting objects to make a gallery look pretty. Realistically, that is maybe 25 percent of the job. Curators are the keepers of the museum’s collection. This means we research, catalogue, preserve, conserve, and house museum objects for current and future generations. We maintain the gallery AND collection space and coordinate interns and volunteers. In actuality, it is a lot more behind the scenes than many people realise (editor’s note: imagine an iceberg. What the public gets to see in a museum is only the tip, above the water).

Although the article mentions that curating is no longer a suitable long term profession, I don’t believe this is true. Starting in the field, the majority of jobs will be contract or project related work. This may be frustrating for some; however this is normal. Most curators go through many contract or part time jobs before finding a permanent position. We also need to open our mind to what it means to be a curator. Depending on the institution a curator can also mean you are also the collection manager, executive director, or program coordinator.

Daniel Martin notes; “nothing is as important when you’re starting out as gaining experience;” for the aspiring curator, this is the most valuable knowledge one can share. If you can, volunteer and take internship opportunities while in school. All experience will supplement your degree and make you a better candidate when vying for a position in this highly competitive field.

Image of a Jesuit Ring, found at Christian Island
Christian Island Jesuit Ring Find

I would end on a note similar to that of the article by sharing my favourite career object, a complete Jesuit ring found during excavations on Christian Island. This ring is associated with one of the last Jesuit missions in Huronia and it features a distinctive ‘L-Heart’ sign. Jesuit rings are rare to find in terms of archaeology, which makes this complete ring even more awe-inspiring.


Editor’s Note: The Jesuit Ring pictured above can be viewed not only here, but in the Museum’s on-line collection page. You can search for specific items, or let the system randomly generate material for you to view. We hope you find the service to be of value and will be adding more pieces on a somewhat regular basis, as time and resources allow.

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