> ***
> What is a curator?
> In American museums one of the most important staff members is the
> curator. Generally speaking, a curator is someone who is recognized (by
> the museum where he or she works, at least) as being an expert, well
> informed and experienced , in some subject related to the mission of the
> museum or its collections. The function of the curator is to provide for
> proper care of collections materials and provide academic and scholarly
> information for the interpretation of the collection in his/her area of
> knowledge. In other words, the curator is the source of information
> about the museum's objects and their care. In many museums the work of
> the curator is overlapped and supported by a registrar, who keeps all
> records, a conservator who repairs objects, a collections manager who
> physically moves and handles the objects, and an exhibit designer who
> puts them on display. Of course, there is also a museum director, and
> other administrators, educators , and various staff members who work
> together to make the museum function.
> In the US there are museum science and museum studies programs available
> at universities. These are generally certification programs rather than
> degree programs, and are intended to provide a foundation for basic,
> general museum work. Many of the programs emphasize experience as a part
> of the education, utilizing internships and volunteer programs - often
> for periods of months. To be hired as a curator by a museum generally
> requires a Masters or Doctorate Degree in a field related to the mission
> of the museum or its collection (e.g., Art; History, Archaeology,
> Botany, Native American Studies, etc.). The degree is not a legal
> requirement, however; decisions may be made case by case in some museums.
> In the US, curators do research, help to create exhibitions, and often
> lecture or publish in their fields. It is a career in which posts and
> rewards(salary and benefits, for example) are usually merit-based;
> more experienced curators with talent in the task of explaining their
> knowledge to others can earn more money and get more prestigious
> positions. The nature of the job and the limited number of museums make
> job changes less frequent than in many other fields, but there is an
> expectation that a curator will try to improve his/her knowledge and
> remain at the top of the field in order to keep a position. Professional
> societies and organizations provide a source for continuing education in
> conferences and symposia, and exhibitions and research provide forums to
> demonstrate ability.
> In Japan, most museums have gakugeiin (translated as " curator") , while
> the national museums have monbugikan (translated as "technical officer
> of the Ministry of Education") or professors. The Japanese system , with
> the provisions of the National Museum Law, gakugeiin, and monbugikan
> is quite different from the western systems - and these differences can
> cause misunderstandings. Because certification as a gakugeiin requires a
> relatively short educational commitment, there is no reason to assume
> that a gakugeiin has significant knowledge or experience in any
> particular specialty of the museum field (though of course many
> eventually do gain that experience) - and yet "curator" is usually
> translated as gakugeiin. When an American curator accompanies an
> exhibition or loan to Japan, it is easy to overlook that this is a
> person who has earned special recognition through education and hard
> work, usually for many years, and not just someone with a certificate.
> The Japanese museum system is beginning to recognize the need for
> further developing its professional staff. There are now museum
> associations (Nihon Hakubutsukan Kyokai, Nippon Bijutsukan Kyogikai,
> Japan Museum Management Academy) and special courses (Gakugeiin Senshu
> Course) to extend their education, and there is new discussion about
> museological issues at the level of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and
> the Ministry of Education. Fundamental problems - such as the fact that
> while a generous count places the number of museums in Japan at about
> 6000, there are some 4000 new gakugeiin certified each year - are being
> studied, and changes may begin to evolve. Gakugeiin, themselves, have
> begun to complain because resources are limited and, because they lack
> the support staff present in the American system, their responsibilities
> are often stretched beyond those resources. With luck, the current
> reviews and changes will improve the situation in the near future. In
> any case, it is important to understand that there are different ways of
> doing things, and that translations do not always give a clear
> understanding of special terms like "curator" .
> *************************************************
> a translated version of this short article is available at:
> http://www.um.u-tokyo.ac.jp/museum/ouroboros/02_01/labo02.html
> translated by
> Yoshihiro Nishiaki, Ph.D.
> The University Museum, The University of Tokyo
> *************************************************
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