Curation is the process of going through information and selecting how to present it to the public. Therefore, the role of the curator in a museum or cultural institution is to take the museum’s collection and put it together in a way that makes it meaningful for visitors. At a history museum that means crafting a cohesive narrative about the past that serves the museum’s mission by using the museum’s collection.
The primary way that curators translate the collection to the public is through the means of exhibits. Exhibits are a unique way of sharing information and a well put together exhibit requires careful considerations on the part of the curator. In addition to sharing accurate and well-researched information, the curator needs to be thinking about the audience at all times. Among the questions a curator needs to consider is how visitors will interact with the exhibit, how they will choose to consume information, and what message they receive. These questions should guide everything from the physical design of an exhibit to the writing of the interpretive text.
While a curator at a small institution will likely be involved in all aspects of running a museum, these pages focus specifically on the more traditional roles of a curator: handling the collection and creating exhibits.