Becoming an archivist, curator or other museum worker is an increasingly popular career choice, and more specialized programs are popping up around the world to serve that desire. But can those modern-day museum moguls steer a canoe or handle a horse? After all, those skills were essential to museum curators of a century ago — as a look at a century-old curator test in the 1910 Proceedings of the American Association of Museums reveals.
"In no profession is a greater variety of accomplishments and capabilities required," wrote Alja Crook in 1910. He assembled a typical (and extensive) list of questions that might be posed to the prospective museum curator, noting that "The questions are fair. They cover the ground."
The first group of questions are pretty standard: educational credentials, languages spoken, positions served. But then things get a bit more...intense. The list includes questions like:
Finally, Rea suggests that search committees ask for a 3,000-word essay on the proper organization of a natural history museum — and includes perhaps the most telling detail of the rigorous test. Rea writes:
"After the candidate has safely negotiated the above questions he is supposed to be able to pass muster in the following regard. He should have good health, ability to handle a horse and canoe, and be inured to the hardships of camp life and the work of exploration.