August 2011 Features

So you want to be a curator?

Are you interested in a career as a curator? Our alumnae/i, featured in Curators for the 21st Century, give you their career advice.

Susan Dackerman

Susan Dackerman, M.A. ’91, Ph.D. ’95

, curator of prints at Harvard Art Museum: “The most important thing is to get a good solid background in the discourse of art history. That means getting the Ph.D.”

Margaretta Frederick

Margaretta Frederick, M.A. ’90, Ph.D. ’96

, chief curator at Delaware Art Museum: “Don’t even bother if you don’t have the passion. As a potential employer, I’m looking for someone with that passion.”

Ellen Miles

Ellen Miles ’64

, retired chair of the department of painting and sculpture at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery: “Identify an area that you’re interested in. It’s not an easy path no matter what, and it’s good to be flexible. But if you’re drawn to a certain style of art, or a certain historical period, then think of yourself as a specialist in that area and you’ll do well.”

Jordana Pomeroy

Jordana Pomeroy ‘84

, chief curator of the Washington D.C. National Museum of Women in the Arts: ”Saying that you studied art history at Bryn Mawr opens doors in the museum world.”

Scott Schaefer

Scott Schaefer, M.A. ’72, Ph.D. ’76

, senior curator of paintings at the J. Paul Getty Museum: “First, have a true love for works of art and for the physicalness of the museum profession. Second, work in a museum or an auction house. At an auction house, tens of hundreds of works of art come to you, and you have to make decisions quickly and efficiently. It means learning the marketplace, learning about decision-making and knowing that sometimes you’ll be wrong, and you’ll have to live with it.”

Comments on “So you want to be a curator?”

  1. Just a reminder that there are many museum curators and directors today who bridge the academic/institutional divide by working on college campuses, serving museums whose roles as centers for interdisciplinary learning can be even more tangible and central than at larger, stand-alone museums. This is another aspect of the “museum work” career track of which Bryn Mawr Art History students and alums should be made aware and for which the rigorous Bryn Mawr graduate program in art history will prepare them.