The difference between a curator and an archivist is that archivists are often involved with valuable documents, while curators work with cultural specimens. A museum curator could deal with any type of historical collection such as coins or art. It is extremely important for him or her to be able to evaluate collection items as genuine and to negotiate prices for acquiring collection items.
Curators plan, display, and catalog collection items. Planning and overseeing tours, programs and workshops may also be part of a his or her duties. He or she may be one of several curators at a museum.
Large museums may employ several curators that each specialize in a certain field. Smaller ones may have just one curator who does many different tasks and works with collections in many different subject areas. Those employed in a large museum may travel often to seek out items to add to the collections, while those in a small museum usually do not travel as part of the job.
Besides education and knowledge of museum studies, a curator needs writing and business skills. Grant requests and other fund raising materials must sometimes be written. Many people in this position also often manage staff. Computer knowledge is also required, as a curators usually must work with databases. Knowledge of public relations and marketing is also helpful, as is the ability to design exhibits that appeal to the public.
Competition is steep for those interested in becoming a museum curator. There are only a few schools in the United States with graduate degree programs in museum studies. A graduate degree as well as work experience in a museum is needed to work in this position. Many students interested in becoming a museum curator work in a museum to gain experience to help them get a job after they receive their graduate degree.