Ask a Curator

At the North Carolina Museum of Art, things are always busy in the Curatorial Department. We’re writing catalogues and handbooks, performing research on the permanent collection, dreaming up potential exhibitions, and combing the art world for future acquisitions (and donors too!). Are you curious about the day-to-day aspects of a curator’s job? Do you have a question about a particular work you just noticed while browsing the galleries? Or do you simply want to know what a curator’s favorite work of art is? Ask a Curator, our new blog series, gives you that chance. Submit questions right here at Untitled in the comment section and be sure to check back for the posted answers.

A few guidelines:

  • Feel free to ask about a specific curator, exhibition or project.
  • Unfortunately, we’re not able to provide appraisals or financial estimates of our collection or your own.
  • Be as creative as possible with your questions–we’re excited to read them!


  1. Posted June 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Being a curator sounds like the ultimate dream job for an art lover, but what are the challenges? If you see a work of art that would be perfect for the museum, do you generally have to fight others for it? I could see some stress arising from that.

  2. Jennifer
    Posted June 18, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    This question is for the curator of the Egyptian collection.

    When does a mummy become a mummy? Is it considered a mummy as soon as the body is wrapped? Or is it only considered a mummy years and years later when the body has “mummified?”

  3. Posted June 20, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Is being a curator what you thought it would be? What are common misconceptions about your job? What type of education or background is good to have in order to become a curator?

  4. Posted June 24, 2009 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    @Jennifer A mummy becomes a mummy as soon as the preservation process is completed. Although the Egyptians generally kept mum (pun intended) on many of their sacred religious practices or were rather vague about them, the Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus was quite eloquent about mummification. He describes three types of mummification, which vary in complexity and cost, and for all three methods, the time required is 70 days.

  5. Lynne F. Knowles
    Posted August 18, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I am curious that I have not heard much about the Rodin donation from Iris Cantor of NYC…
    Is this still forthcoming?

  6. Jonathan
    Posted November 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Are there masters in art curating? And are there any programs in the North Carolina area?

  7. William Deupree
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I am wondering if there is a ‘standard’ that requires an organization to have a curator on staff if the organization is known as a museum. Reason being, a museum(not a large one)received a collection of Indian artifacs several years ago. The donor’s family would like to retreve the collection because the musuem has provided poor exposer and has had some financial problems. A friend of the family mentioned that a curator is suppose to be on staff in a museum and that this museum does not have a curator. Thank You, Bill Deupree

  8. Steve Meehan
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering about the painting St. Prosdocimus and St. Peter. I read that the two are together because St. Peter sent him to Padua. But couldn’t find anything about why the looks on their faces and what is the toothbrush looking item that Prosdocimus is holding?

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  1. [...] blog recently started an ongoing “Ask a Curator” series, similar to one that’s in the works over at Untitled, the North Carolina Museum of Art’s blog. It’s an interesting development in exploring the [...]

  2. [...] for your responses to our Ask a Curator post. Linda Dougherty, Curator of Contemporary Art, has volunteered to answer the first [...]

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