Associate Curator
The Science Museum

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Katie M

00:00:02 My name’s Katie M and I’m the Associate Curator of Medicine at the Science Museum. It’s a pretty varied job but essentially I look after a big collection of objects that relate to the history of medicine. And so, we collect those objects and then we use those objects to tell really interesting stories through exhibitions and web projects. I really enjoy learning. So, I’m, today I’ve been learning about iron lungs. I went to talk to somebody who, who works with iron lungs. And then on another day you would just be learning something completely different about maybe laboratory medicine or about ancient Greek medicine. So, I mean, I just love the fact that my job’s stimulating and I just learn something new on a day-to-day basis.

00:00:39 I always enjoyed going to museums as a child and I, I’ve always enjoyed history growing up but I mean, I probably didn’t even know there was such a thing as a curator probably until I went to university. Originally I was really interested in being an archaeologist or an Egyptologist at school, I remember at junior school I was fascinated with the Egyptians and I wanted to teach Egyptology. And then at senior school it probably turned more into wanting to be an archaeologist.

00:01:05 When I went to university I actually did a course in archaeology and I did a three week dig where I camped and dug away in the mud for three weeks and decided I really didn’t enjoy it because it was boring and muddy. But, but after that I still really enjoy history and objects and so by about the third term in my uni-, like, like third year of my university I was sort really panicky about what the hell am I going to with my life. So, then I started going, well, I, I, I visit galleries and museums all the time, perhaps there’s, you know, an opportunity there. So, then I just did lots of work experience after that.

00:01:40 And so, once I was in at university I volunteered at the local, at the local museum. It was, it was useful and it did, did make me think that actually I would really like to work in this environment. Literally, as soon as I came home after graduation I, I applied for local work experience in museums again. The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum had opened up so I volunteered to help with their secondary source library because they were still setting up at that point.

00:02:05 So, it was just moving books around and, and cataloguing them. So, it sounds pretty boring but actually the people were really nice. And actually it was really good experience in terms of using databases and learning how to manage, you know, manage objects. I actually started at the Science Museum in 2003. And I just started as a gallery assistant. It was quite a boring job just being on gallery permanently and asking visitor questions but equally it was really good experience. The people were wonderful. You meet visitors and you really see how visitors engage with an exhibition.

00:02:35 You got to learn what was, you know, what works on display, what didn’t work on display and I’ve always found that really useful experience ever since being in the museum. I would say my job defines who I am to a great extent. I mean, I’m very, I’m very proud of my job. I like the fact that I haven’t, I haven’t really gone for a conventional, more, more conventional career. So, I do think it defines me, it defines who I am in the sense that I enjoy learning, I enjoy learning new stuff. So, it does define who I am.

00:03:08 Looking at my career in ten, ten years time is something that scares me quite a lot because there’s not that many museums that specialise in history of medicine. So, where do I go from here? It’s, it’s quite a scary question to ask myself. I mean, in some ways I’d quite like to work at either a local museum or something where I have much more contact with the local, you know, like with visitors.

00:03:33 But equally, I mean, there’s other things where now I’m doing research in history of medicine that perhaps I’ll want to do a PhD and perhaps that will lead somewhere else in terms of teaching or something academic or perhaps I’ll want to do something completely different in ten years time. I’m quite somebody who’s quite into whims. So, I might want to be a medical journalist in ten years time. Who knows? ENDS

Katie M loves learning and has always enjoyed history and visiting museums. As Assistant Curator of Medicine at The Science Museum she uses medical objects to tell interesting stories through exhibitions and web projects. Put off archaeology by the mud, she volunteered for work experience with a vengeance to achieve her goal of working in a museum. Katie sees numerous possibilities for her career development in the next few years.

More information about Archivists and curators

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

44%  male 
56%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Archivists and curators collect, appraise and preserve collections of recorded and other material of historical interest.
Entrants require a good first degree in order to gain entry to a relevant postgraduate course. Many postgraduate courses also require applicants to have gained relevant practical experience prior to entry. Training is typically received on-the-job. Professional qualifications leading to NVQs/SVQs in relevant areas at Levels 3, 4 and 5 are available.
  • Examines, appraises and advises on the acquisition of exhibits, historic records, government papers and other material;
  • Classifies material and arranges for its safe keeping and preservation;
  • Maintains indexes, bibliographies and descriptive details of archive material and arranges for reproductions of items where necessary;
  • Examines objects to identify any damage and carries out necessary restoration whilst preserving original characteristics;
  • Makes sure that storage and display conditions protect objects from deterioration and damage;
  • Allows access to original material or material not on display for researchers;
  • Develops and promotes ideas for exhibitions and displays;
  • Negotiates loans of material for specialist displays;
  • Liaises with school and other groups or individuals, publicises exhibits and arranges special displays for general, specialised or educational interest;
  • Answers verbal or written enquiries and gives advice on exhibits or other material.
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