Why consider a career as a museum curator

Posted at 04/04/2014 5:49 PM | Updated as of 04/04/2014 5:49 PM
Museum curator Bettina Arriola at work

MANILA – Who says jobs related to the arts are unexciting and pay little?

A curator interviewed by ABS-CBNNews.com said that dealing with works of art in museums and shrines can be exciting and lucrative too.

Bettina Arriola is an alumna of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila. She is a museum curator in a government-sponsored shrine that showcases Filipino culture and heritage.

The 25-year-old curator said that contrary to popular belief, being a museum or art curator is not a menial job. As a matter of fact, it involves thorough researching and careful planning, among other things.

“We research, plan for programs, marketing strategy and exhibits in the museum. We are also tasked to acquire items for our collection. We also deal with the operational needs of the museum; handling its budget and sales, negotiation for collaboration, organization, coordination, marketing and planning of events,” she said.

Prior to her current job, Arriola previously worked as a development officer in another state-sponsored museum in Manila.

According to Arriola, versatility is a requirement for aspiring curators because the job entails all-around duties including being the front liner of the museum and even conducting tours for visitors.

“It is unlike the routine job where you will have in an eight hour office work. Something new comes up that makes work more exciting and there are lots of things to do, lots of research to conduct, it is a never-ending learning process,” she said.

Asked if curators are compensated well for their work, Arriola answered in the affirmative. However, the pay rates in government-sponsored museums depend on a curator’s job level.

“Well, maybe ranging from P20,000 to over P40,000. But it all depends on your level as a curator. The higher your rank is, the higher your salary will be.”

On the other hand, she revealed that those who work in museums owned by private companies and organizations can earn much more.

Arriola said that her education has definitely helped her land her current job. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Philippine Arts, a unique program offered by UP Manila which explores and studies the art forms, heritage and culture of the Philippines.

Aside from being knowledgeable about curatorship and various forms of art, Arriola said there are certain qualifications one must possess in order to become a shrine or museum curator.

“Usually, curators should have taken further studies to qualify as one. With regard to the [other] requirements for the job, you need to possess good communication skills, research skills, critical thinking skills and project management skills.”

For those people who are passionate about the Filipino culture and heritage, Arriola strongly suggests to consider a career as a museum or art curator.

“[Being a curator] is very rewarding because I feel like I am doing something to preserve Philippine heritage. It is a kind of work where you will continually grow and keep on learning. There is so much to explore in this field,” she said.

GROWING DEMAND

Marivene Manuel-Santos, a curator at the National Museum said there is a demand for more curators today because of the shrines and museums that are set to be opened.

“Merong demand. Nagkakataon na sabay-sabay nawawala ‘yung mga old-timers, nag-retire na. So ngayon, in demand sila pero may requirements na naka-set.”

She said that not only graduates of arts-related courses can be curators. Graduates of science-related programs are also needed in museums, especially those which feature artifacts and displays that are related to the country’s natural history.

Santos heads the Zoology Division of the National Museum and has worked there for almost 30 years. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of the East and her master’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Santo Tomas. She is also a candidate for PhD at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

When asked if new graduates can also be accepted as curators, Santos replied positively.

“May puwang [sa curator-related industries] para sa new graduates, definitely. Kahit ‘di naman sila chief agad, curator pa rin sila. Siyempre, kapag pasok mo, hindi ka naman chief agad. You will start at the bottom.”

According to her, even if fresh graduates started at low positions, they can easily work their way up the company if they are dedicated to and passionate about their job. Santos herself worked as a contractual employee before being promoted to a regular curator and eventually becoming a division head.

She said that while working, curators can also work on the side as a teacher, researcher, non-government organization worker or consultant for environmental or cultural issues.

One of the museums that is expected to open soon is the Philippine National Museum of Natural History which will feature artifacts and displays that are related to the country’s natural sciences. Santos said that this museum alone will require more curators and staff.

“Mangangailangan ng marami kaya may demand. May reorganization plan kami ngayon... kami 300 lang at present – ang proposed ay almost 700 employees so mangangailangan ng 400 pa.”