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Museum CuratorConservation, archives, and lecturing
The post of museum curator combines a high level of expertise in art with administrative responsibilities. The curator is in charge of developing, safeguarding, studying, and publicizing the collection in his or her care.
Training at the Institut National du Patrimoine
The competitive entrance exams for the Institut National du Patrimoine (France's National Heritage Institute, overseen by the Ministry of Culture) are open to holders of a university degree or equivalent. Candidates must be French or European Union nationals, and most successful candidates hold postgraduate qualifications in addition to their initial university degree. The exams test general knowledge in archaeology, history, art history, ethnology, and the natural sciences, plus an area of specialization and foreign language skills. Close acquaintance with works in the French national collections is also required, plus practical or research experience in the candidate's speciality. Relevant academic courses are taught in France at the Ecole du Louvre, Paris Universities I, IV and X, and Lille University III.
Successful candidates then enter the Institut National du Patrimoine which offers training in six specialized areas: archaeology, archive sciences, cataloging, historical monuments, museography and scientific, technical and natural heritage.
Training lasts 18 months and comprises:
– internships in a cultural administration department and two heritage bodies, plus an assignment abroad
– eight teaching modules: Law, Public Sector Management, Heritage and Public Outreach, Heritage and Multimedia, Heritage Economics, Social Management, Conservation and Restoration, and Construction and Restoration of Heritage Buildings, together with language studies.
Working as a Curator at the Louvre
In total, sixty curators work in the Louvre's eight departments, each of which has its own head curator and working procedures. Curators are in charge of managing specific aspects of the collection, but they also play an active role in the management and administration of the museum.
The curators assigned to the Louvre automatically become part of the wider organization encompassing France's recognized "national museums". Because the Louvre's eight departments are officially recognized heritage bodies, their curators are expert advisers on all cultural property in circulation: this extends to acquisitions being made by regional museums and the preparation of reports on "national treasures". This latter term covers any item of cultural property which, given its value as part of the national heritage, may not, under the terms of legislation passed in 1992 , be removed from French territory.
As recognized specialists in their fields, the curators contribute to the international outreach of the Louvre's collection: they speak at international conferences; teach at the Louvre School, the Institut National du Patrimoine, the Institute for the Restoration of Works of Art, the Ecole Normale Supérieure, and various universities; sit on examination boards; and publish papers in their field of expertise.
Security and Responsibility
Whatever their field—archaeology or paintings, for example—curators are responsible for the safety of the works in their department's collection and the premises where they are housed. This entails an almost daily round of maintenance visits with museum security chiefs: technical and logistics heads, fire officers, and attendants working in the galleries and reserve collections. These visits are accompanied by checks of the alarm systems, the showcases, the hung works, and the overall state of the displays. Before being hung, placed in a showcase, lent out to an exhibition, or loaned to another museum or institution, all works are given a "health check." When restoration is required, the curator gives an expert opinion and takes the necessary decisions, notably on the extent of the restoration.
A work being lent out or deposited is packed, conveyed, and unpacked by the curator or an expert from the museum staff. This person travels with the work—by plane, for example, or road transport—and secures the hanging space or exhibition venue upon arrival. The loan of a work considered too fragile to travel without risk may be refused.
Acquisitions and Development of the Collection
One of the most significant aspects of the curator's profession is the judicious development of his or her department's collection. Curators keep a close eye on the art market and maintain regular contacts with major private and corporate donors, collectors, dealers, antiquarians, corporations, and patrons.
When a suitable work is offered for sale on the open market, or directly to the Louvre for purchase or as a donation, the curator must verify the work's creator and provenance, and draw up meticulous condition and acquisition reports. Curators also play an active role in negotiations with prospective donors.
Most of the Louvre's archaeological departments are involved in long-term digs or more specific assignments during the course of which potential acquisitions for the museum may be uncovered. In some cases, the Louvre's acquisition of these works is covered by an advance contract. Items from earlier excavations may appear at auction, and despite the shortage of time it is the curator's duty to check their origin.
Research and Education
As an internationally recognized specialist on the works in his or her charge, the curator must keep abreast of current research by attending lectures and conferences, meeting with other specialists, studying the holdings of other museums, and following developments in scholarly literature and other publications. It is the curator's task to prepare name, title, and information plaques, and catalogs and guides for the works on show, as well as to ensure regular publications about the collection for experts and the general public. Curators also oversee the making of films about their departments, and contribute to the up-dating of research databases and information on the Louvre's Web site.
Curators may be called upon to contribute articles about exhibitions mounted by colleagues, as well as organizing temporary exhibitions and fresh initiatives within their own departments. Temporary exhibitions highlight a specific period, artist, or style, and the curator must take account of the needs of general museum-goers, scholars, and experts alike. Detailed knowledge of the museum's reserve collections enable him or her to inject new life into the permanent collection, especially as this can help negotiate loans requested by colleagues. Working regularly with the research and restoration center of the Musées de France, curators are responsible for analyzing and interpreting new information about specific works provided by chemists, physicists, and other experts. Last but not least, curators have a part to play in the training of the museum's lecturers and guides, and students at the Ecole du Louvre.
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.