What Does an Art Museum Curatorial Assistant Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Katie Kerpel © The Balance 2019

A curatorial assistant works full-time in an art museum's curatorial department, assisting the chief or associate curator with collection research and exhibition preparation.

Art Museum Curatorial Assistant Duties & Responsibilities

The job generally requires the ability to perform the following duties:

  • Coordinating and corresponding with artists, dealers, lenders, art institutions, and collectors
  • Preparing loan forms and master checklists
  • Updating and keeping accurate records
  • Scheduling the exhibition calendar and travel itineraries
  • Assisting with exhibition layout plans and ​installation maquettes
  • Helping with the writing, editing, and researching of museum exhibition invitations, artist invite packages, catalog publications, biographic and bibliographic material, wall labels, press releases, and exhibition fact sheets

A curatorial assistant provides support to curatorial projects initiated within the department. This includes gathering and analyzing art historical and scholarly texts, visual and object location information, and budgetary data, compiled in order to initiate and implement exhibitions.

For touring exhibitions, a curatorial assistant maintains the database, tracks responses, and consults with registrars, curators, and exhibition coordinators at each venue, helping to record all aspects of the exhibition while it is touring.

The job may also include procuring the visual images, captions, credit lines, and rights for printing and publication purposes.

Curatorial Assistant Salary

A curatorial assistant's salary can vary depending on location, experience, and employer.

  • Median Annual Salary: $40,000 ($16.92 per hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $53,000 ($27.78 per hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $30,000 ($11.92 per hour)

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education, Training, & Certification

Aspiring curatorial assistants should have the following education and experience:

  • Education: Curatorial assistants are often required to have a least a bachelor's degree in art history, or museum studies. A master's degree is usually preferred. Coursework in business administration, public relations, and marketing may also be helpful for the more administrative parts of the job.
  • Experience: A curatorial assistant typically needs to have some curatorial experience in an art institution before being considered for a position in a large art museum. Additionally, having knowledge and experience in standard museum and curatorial practices, and understanding how the art world (of art institutions, galleries, artists, curators, auction houses) operates is needed. Candidates with internship experience may have a competitive advantage.

Curatorial Assistant Skills & Competencies

To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:

  • Communication skills: A curatorial assistant must be a highly skilled communicator, in both oral presentation and the written word as preparing, writing, and editing curatorial texts are a major part of the job.
  • Interpersonal skills: A curatorial assistant is a team player, and working smoothly and effectively with a wide range of arts professionals, museum trustees and staff, artists and the general public, is necessary.
  • Technical skills: Those in this position must have basic computer and software skills in order to work in the museum’s database and project management systems.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for museum workers, in general, will grow 14 percent through 2026, which is faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country. The increased demand for curators, assistant curators, and for the collections they manage will depend on continued public interest in museums.

Work Environment

Curatorial assistants may spend some of their time working at a desk and some time on their feet working with the public. They may also travel to help evaluate potential additions to the collection, organize exhibits, and conduct research. 

Work Schedule

Most curatorial assistants work a full-time schedule of 40 hours per week and may need to work some evening and weekends.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People who are interested in becoming curatorial assistants may also consider other careers with these median salaries:

How to Get the Job

Get an Internship

The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) offers a list of art curation internships at museums and other art institutions. You can also check with the museums themselves to find out about the internship opportunities they offer.

Apply

You can search for art museum curator jobs on the AAMC website or on general job search sites like Indeed and Glassdoor.