The curious life of a museum curator

Working as a curator in a museum is an odd job. It is the best job on the planet. But it is like no other I know of. There are an enormous range of daily tasks a curator carries out, and these are not without their quirks. Here are a few oddities museum curators deal with regularly:

Curators are not Indiana Jones

I’ve written about this before in more detail, but no, we are not Indiana Jones. When we introduce ourselves to new people, the response is sometimes ‘oh, just like Indiana Jones.’ This is a common misconception, albeit a rather flattering one. We do see some dangerous action in the field: dozens of beetles and flies on family friendly bug hunts, slipping on jagged rocks when rock pooling. However, some, many, most do not have whips under their beds. Curators do not steal ancient relics from temples (there are laws against those sorts of things). We are just as determined and passionate as Indy, but very different.

 

A museum curator and Indiana Jones. Can you tell the two apart? (Photo left Public Domain. Photo right by author)

 

“You’re Ross from Friends

This is a another common response when a museum curator tells someone what they do. And yes, Ross Geller (played by the excellent David Schwimmer), was a museum curator before becoming a university lecturer in the wonderful sit-com Friends. Ross worked at the fictional Museum of Natural History as a palaeontology curator. His work spanned enormously for a national museum, where his expertise ranged from human evolution to dinosaurs. Ross Geller is the closest thing to a museum personality curators have ever had. To be honest, this isn’t a bad thing. He was pretty cool. Curators can relate to his slightly obsessive geekiness and matter of fact way of thinking. For me, Ross is a legend on screen. As a teen watching Friends his character was actually extremely influential – I could relate to his nerdy, slightly awkward persona. In fact, without Ross Geller I wouldn’t have thought about a career in museums.

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NatSCA Digital Digest

ChameleonYour weekly round-up of news and events happening in the world of natural sciences

Events

8th – 15th June: The Dodo Roadshow. To mark the Oxford University Museum of Natural History’s nomination in this year’s Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, the Oxford Dodo is touring the country, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, in just one week, visiting museums and galleries along the way!

17th – 18th June: Refloating the Ark: Connecting the public and scientists with natural history museums at Manchester Museum. Conference looking at how natural history collections can be used to engage effectively with the public and the scientific research community.

25 June: Collection Standards Infrastructure Project – Environmental Standards at NHM, London. Talk on standards for collections, display and storage and their implications.

 

News

A new species of theropod dinosaur from Wales has been discovered by experts from The University of Manchester, University of Portsmouth, and the National Museum Wales.

A rare meteorite stolen from an Australian museum may have been stolen to order. Scary stuff!

A study using museum collections has found that the world’s biodiversity might not be as diverse as we thought…

The World Museum in Liverpool has added a new Octopus called Polvo to its aquarium!

 

Around the Web

A dinosaur reading list for every dino enthusiast in your life!

David Gelsthorpe of Manchester Museum on how the Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits tells the story of Ice Age animals.

NHM curator Erica McAlister has been re-curating flies. Big flies.

 

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