Curator Kaitiaki Taonga

Curators research, develop, exhibit and maintain collections for museums, art galleries and artists.

Curators may do some or all of the following:

  • decide what to add to art and museum collections and exhibitions
  • liaise with artists, art dealers, museums and galleries to get items for collections
  • plan, organise and oversee the content and quality of exhibitions 
  • research, write and give talks about collections and exhibitions
  • work on repatriation projects (returning art and cultural objects, usually looted, to their original place)
  • manage budgets.

Physical Requirements

Curators need to:

  • have clear speech as they may need to give presentations
  • have normal colour vision and good eyesight, as they need to assess art and objects
  • be reasonably fit and strong, as in smaller galleries and museums they may have to do some physical work such as painting walls or lifting objects.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for curators includes:

  • voluntary or paid work in art galleries or museums
  • work as an artist, art critic or art historian
  • library or research work
  • project management.

Personal Qualities

Curators need to be:

  • creative thinkers
  • good researchers and writers
  • accurate and methodical, with an eye for detail
  • able to work well in a team
  • excellent networkers
  • excellent communicators who can relate to people of all ages and cultures, and who have public relations skills.


Curators need to have knowledge of:

  • the subject area they work in, such as art, history, or material culture (the study through objects of a community's beliefs)
  • handling, conserving and preserving items in art and museum collections and exhibitions
  • funding sources that can help them expand collections.



  • usually work regular business hours, but may work evenings and weekends
  • work in art galleries, museums, offices and storerooms
  • may travel locally or overseas with exhibitions, or to purchase, borrow or repatriate items (return them to their original homes).

Subject Recommendations

A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter further training. Useful subjects include te reo Māori, Pacific studies, history of arts, history and classical studies, science, English, construction and mechanical technologies, and painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking combined.

Curators can earn around $55K-$65K per year.

Pay for curators varies depending on their level of responsibility and the size of the institution they work for.

  • Curators at smaller regional museums or galleries can earn $55,000 to $65,000 a year.
  • Experienced curators at larger museums can earn $65,000 to $70,000.
  • Senior curators or team leaders with five or more years' experience can earn $70,000 to $95,000.

Source: Museums Aotearoa, 2018.

After five or more years' experience, curators may progress into senior positions or move into management. With further experience they may progress to education roles such as tertiary lecturer.

Curators may specialise in areas such as:

  • art
  • art history
  • natural history
  • Māori or Pacific Island culture.

Years Of Training

5 years of training usually required.

To become a curator you need considerable industry experience and/or a postgraduate degree in a specialist area such as:

  • art
  • art history
  • Māori or Pacific studies
  • science
  • anthropology
  • history.

A postgraduate qualification in museum studies may also be useful.