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Curator

The Real Poop

No, this is not a fancy word for "doctors." Believe us,—no matter how sick you are, you don't want to be curated. That process would mean that you are being placed behind glass and put on display before the general public. (Ever see the original Planet of the Apes?) We can hardly see how that will help you get rid of that nagging cold.

Curators are those who work in a museum, zoo, or other type of institution that presents collections of any kind, mostly art. Old paintings. Twisted clay. Crushed soup cans. Curators are responsible for negotiating to buy the pieces to add to a collection. They execute the acquisition itself, and then organize the pieces all pretty and nice. Curators may be specialized in something like the study of dinosaur fossils or aquatic mammals, or their expertise may be broader. For example, perhaps they are an expert on "things with feet." Yeah, that's pretty general. 

It is a curator's job to present an array of interesting and educational artifacts to entertain and inform the public. They need to be good communicators, highly educated, knowledgeable on their given subject area (most are PhDs, in fact), creative and artistic, organized, good with computers, and snappy dressers. This last one is essential—you will never be taken seriously as a curator in baggy sweatpants and a hoodie.

Too bad her attire isn’t more colorful.

Many lovers of history take a divergent path and end up teaching at the high school or college level instead, but museum curators actually have the chance to get their hands on history. Rather than lecturing to a classroom half full of disinterested students about the Wild West, you get to create a display for an actual Arapaho headdress. Not that teaching isn't honorable or an excellent alternative, but if you are more of the "hands on" type, you may want to consider going the curator route. And leave the teaching to the "hands off" people. 

Perhaps the most attractive element of this job is that you will never be bored. Assuming you are fascinated by history, or art, or whatever it is that your institution presents to the public—maybe you're obsessed with seashells and you got a job as the curator of the National Shell Art Museum—you will have pass through your hands pieces and artifacts that are one-of-a-kind. You will be surrounded by representations of the subject matter that you love, and because exhibits are always being changed out, there will never be enough time to become bored by what you see hanging on walls or displayed in glass cases. There will be a steady influx of new marvels to continually hold your attention and make you glad you became a curator.

Captain Marvel, in the flesh.

You have to be seriously dedicated though. It is up to you to research every single piece that comes into your institution—to verify its authenticity, make sure the information that is displayed alongside it is 100% accurate, and ensure that it is sufficiently protected from dust or potentially erosive elements. Every item under your care is like a child that you must look after and safeguard. The only difference is that a bust of Abraham Lincoln is unlikely to knock on your door at 3 in the morning and ask if it can climb into bed with you. You're open-minded, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Curating can be a fascinating, hugely rewarding career—you may end up working at some dinky little roadside museum off the highway in Wyoming, but there is also the chance you could ascend to the heights of being employed by the Smithsonian, where some of our greatest treasures will be entrusted to your keep. That's a lot of pressure though, and you need to take that responsibility seriously. If someone catches you painting mustaches on the American Gothic couple, for example, you're going to be out of a job.

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