Interview

17 Curator Interview Questions and Answers

Learn what skills and qualities interviewers are looking for from a curator, what questions you can expect, and how you should go about answering them.

A museum curator is responsible for the acquisition, care, and display of a museum’s collections. They work with the public to provide information about the objects in the collection, and with the staff of the museum to plan exhibitions.

If you’re interested in becoming a curator, you’ll need to be able to answer common interview questions related to the job. In this article, we’ll provide some tips on how to answer questions about your experience, education, and interest in the position. We’ll also provide some sample questions and answers that you can use to practice for your interview.

Are you comfortable working with a diverse range of people and groups?

As a curator, you may need to work with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Employers ask this question to make sure you have the interpersonal skills needed for this role. Use your answer to show that you are open-minded and willing to collaborate with others. Explain how these skills help you succeed in your career.

Example: “I am passionate about art and culture, so I love working with people of all ages and backgrounds. In my previous position, I worked with many groups of students on projects. I enjoyed collaborating with them to create unique pieces of art. These experiences helped me develop my communication and collaboration skills. I can use these skills to build relationships with other curators and artists.”

What are some of the most important qualities for a curator to have?

This question can help the interviewer determine if you have the skills and abilities they’re looking for in a curator. Use your answer to highlight your communication, organization and problem-solving skills. You can also mention any other skills that are important for curators to have.

Example: “Curators need to be organized and detail-oriented because they’re responsible for organizing large amounts of information. They should also be able to communicate effectively with others because they’ll often work with artists, designers and other people who create content. Finally, I think it’s important for curators to have strong problem-solving skills because they may encounter challenges while planning exhibits.”

How do you decide which items to include in an exhibit?

Curators must have excellent critical thinking and problem-solving skills to select the best pieces of art for an exhibit. Employers ask this question to see if you can make decisions that are in the best interest of their museum. In your answer, explain how you would go about making this decision. Explain that you would consider a variety of factors when deciding which items to include.

Example: “I would first look at the theme or concept of the exhibit. I would then decide what pieces of art fit with this concept. For example, if the exhibit was on wildlife, I would choose pieces of art that depict animals. Next, I would consider the artist’s background and style. I would also take into account the materials used to create the piece. Finally, I would think about whether the piece is unique or has historical significance.”

What is your process for preserving and caring for artifacts?

This question can help interviewers understand your experience with handling artifacts and other objects in a museum setting. Use examples from past projects to explain how you handled the care of these items, including any specific techniques or processes you used.

Example: “I have extensive knowledge about preservation methods for all types of artifacts. I’ve worked on several projects where we had to restore damaged pieces, so I know what materials work best for different situations. For example, I once helped restore an old painting that was torn at the bottom. We were able to use a special glue to mend the tear, which allowed us to display it without damaging the rest of the piece.”

Provide an example of a time when you had to deal with a difficult visitor or guest.

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your interpersonal skills and ability to handle challenging situations. In your answer, try to highlight how you used your problem-solving or conflict resolution skills to resolve the situation.

Example: “In my previous role as a curator at an art museum, I had a visitor who was very disruptive during one of our guided tours. The visitor would not stop talking throughout the tour, which made it difficult for other visitors to hear the information that our tour guide was sharing. After the tour, I spoke with the visitor privately about their behavior. They apologized and promised to be more respectful in the future. I also offered them a private tour so they could learn more about the exhibits.”

If a piece of artwork or an artifact started to show signs of deterioration, what would you do?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would handle a challenging situation. Use your answer to highlight your problem-solving skills and ability to make quick decisions.

Example: “If I noticed that an artifact or piece of artwork was deteriorating, I would first try to determine the cause of the deterioration. If it’s due to improper storage, for example, then I would take steps to ensure that the item is stored properly in the future. If the deterioration is due to age, however, there isn’t much I can do about that. In this case, I would document the condition of the item before taking any further action.”

What would you do if you were unable to find a piece you were looking for during an exhibit setup?

This question can help interviewers understand how you would handle a challenge at work. Use your answer to highlight your problem-solving skills and ability to adapt to unexpected situations.

Example: “If I couldn’t find a piece during setup, I would first check the paperwork to make sure it was delivered. If it wasn’t there, I would contact my supervisor or other colleagues to see if they had any information about where the piece might be. If we still didn’t have any luck finding it, I would call the company that shipped the exhibit to us to see if they could locate it for us.”

How well do you handle criticism?

As a curator, you may need to make tough decisions about which pieces of art to include in an exhibit. Sometimes these choices can be controversial and lead to negative feedback from the public or other professionals. Interviewers want to know that you are confident enough to handle criticism without letting it affect your work.

Example: “I understand that my job is to curate exhibits based on my own personal taste. However, I also take into account what others think when making my final decision. If someone has a valid point, I am open to changing my mind. In fact, I have done this before during my career as a curator. When I first started working at the museum, I was responsible for organizing a new exhibit featuring modern artists. One artist submitted a piece that included nudity. I decided to include the painting because I thought it fit with the rest of the exhibit.

However, after receiving some complaints from visitors, I decided to remove the painting from the exhibit. While I initially disagreed with removing the painting, I realized that it would be best for the overall experience.”

Do you have any experience working with digital exhibits?

Museums are increasingly using digital exhibits to engage visitors. Employers ask this question to see if you have experience with the technology and how you use it. If you do, share an example of a time when you used it successfully. If you don’t, explain that you’re willing to learn.

Example: “I’ve worked on several projects where we created digital exhibits for our museum. I find them especially useful for reaching younger audiences. In my last position, I was part of a team that developed a new exhibit about endangered animals. We decided to create a digital component so kids could interact with the exhibit through touchscreens. It was very successful, and many families told us they enjoyed the interactive aspect.”

When planning an exhibit, how do you decide what the central theme or message should be?

Interviewers may ask this question to assess your ability to plan and organize an exhibit. Use your answer to highlight your organizational skills, communication abilities and critical thinking skills.

Example: “I think about the museum’s mission statement when deciding what the central theme or message should be. I also consider how my ideas will relate to the other exhibits in the space. For example, if we have a lot of exhibits that focus on nature, I might want to create an exhibit that focuses on humanity instead. This way, it provides contrast for visitors who are looking for something different.”

We want to increase visitor engagement through social media. How would you incorporate social media into our exhibits?

Social media is a popular way to connect with people and share information. Employers ask this question to see if you have experience using social media in your previous roles. Use examples from past experiences where you used social media to increase engagement or awareness of an exhibit.

Example: “I’ve found that social media is a great tool for engaging visitors at the museum. I would use social media to post photos, videos and other content related to our exhibits. This helps me reach new audiences who may not be aware of what we’re doing at the museum. In my last role, I helped create a social media campaign around one of our exhibits. We posted several times per week on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The campaign was so successful that it increased visitor numbers by 10%.”

Describe your experience working with other museums or institutions.

This question can help interviewers understand your experience collaborating with other professionals in the field. Use examples from previous work to show how you collaborate and communicate effectively with others.

Example: “I have worked with several museums across the country, including a museum that specializes in Native American artifacts. I helped them organize an exhibit on the history of the Cherokee tribe by researching various objects and organizing them into themes. This process required me to communicate regularly with my colleagues at the Cherokee museum to ensure we were all working toward the same goals. We also had to coordinate our schedules so we could meet in person to discuss our progress.”

What makes you stand out from other candidates for this position?

Employers ask this question to learn more about your qualifications and how you can contribute to their organization. Before your interview, make a list of all the skills and experiences that relate to this role. Use these examples to show the employer why you are the best candidate for the job.

Example: “I have extensive experience working with different types of art and artists. I also understand the importance of curating exhibits that appeal to a wide audience. In my last position, I curated an exhibit featuring local artists who used recycled materials in their work. This exhibit was so popular that it inspired other museums to create similar exhibits.”

Which museums or institutions do you admire the most and why?

This question can help an interviewer get to know you as a curator and your interests. It can also give them insight into what museums or institutions you would like to work for in the future. When answering this question, it can be helpful to mention museums or institutions that have similar goals to those of the institution you are interviewing with.

Example: “I admire the Metropolitan Museum of Art because they have such a vast collection of art from all over the world. I love how they display their pieces so visitors can learn about each artist’s background and inspiration. I also think the National Gallery of Art is amazing because they have such a wide variety of artwork on display. They also do a great job at educating visitors about the artists’ lives and inspirations.”

What do you think is the most important thing that a curator should do?

This question is a great way to see how you view your role as a curator. It also allows the interviewer to understand what you value most in this position. When answering, it can be helpful to think about what you enjoy most about being a curator and what you feel has been most important for you in previous positions.

Example: “I believe that the most important thing a curator should do is find ways to engage with their audience. I have always felt that curators are storytellers who help people connect with art through different mediums. In my last position, I created an interactive exhibit where visitors could use technology to learn more about the pieces of art on display. This was very successful, and I learned that engaging with the public is one of my strengths.”

How often should a museum update its exhibits?

Curators need to be aware of the latest trends in their field. They also need to know how often they should update exhibits so that visitors have a reason to return. Your answer should show that you understand the importance of keeping exhibits fresh and exciting for repeat visitors.

Example: “I think it’s important to change up exhibits every few years, but I would never want to lose the historical value of an exhibit by changing it too frequently. For example, if we were featuring a collection from the 1960s, I might only rotate out one or two pieces per year. However, if we had a more modern exhibit, I might rotate out all of the pieces once a month.”

There is a disagreement between conservators and curators about how to care for an artifact. How do you handle this situation?

This question can help interviewers understand how you handle conflict and make decisions. Use your answer to highlight your ability to collaborate with others, communicate clearly and solve problems creatively.

Example: “In my last position as a curator at a local museum, I had an artifact that was in need of restoration. The conservators wanted to use traditional methods for restoring the artifact while I preferred using more modern techniques. We met together to discuss our options and decided on a compromise where we would restore part of the artifact using traditional methods and then finish it off with the new technique. This allowed us to preserve some of the history of the artifact while also giving visitors a chance to see something unique.”

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