‘What exactly is a Curator?’

The excitement of starting a new job is usually met with a feeling of nervousness, and this was the case on the 6th of January, the day before starting as Curator at The St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum. In the weeks leading up to my start date, many friends and family looked blankly at me and ask, ‘what exactly is a Curator?’, so I was well rehearsed in knowing my job description. Yet, this in no way meant I would have a clue what I was doing when I actually got there.

Adding the finishing touches to a new display in the museum.

The first week was an almighty blur. Most of my time was spent figuring out where things were, who people were, where I was and what I was doing. I have lots of helpful notes that the previous Curator Jennifer Reid left over that was, and still is, invaluable. Also, Jenn continues to offer guidance, and I’ve had numerous offers of help from my museum neighbours at MUSA and beyond, so it’s great to know I’m not quite alone.

Now that I have started to settle in, I have been able to start using my experience from the MGS internship to plan various projects in the museum. Most are at an early stage, however after reviewing the documentation and Adlib database manual I was able to create a structured but simple learning plan for two new volunteers. I based this on my own internship learning plan, and by following it I will be able to review the development of the volunteer’s learning, as well as the progress being made in documenting the collection. I hope this will result in the volunteers having a meaningful experience where they can build essential skills for their own future careers.

Documentation aside, the role has thus far included writing various articles for newsletters and magazines, and thankfully I have a keen bunch of volunteers with research material. During the internship I did write content for the web, but the editorial tone is different. I’m glad I am getting the experience to write in different styles though, as this is such a key skill to have as a Curator.

Currently, I have been helping the volunteer research group display their exhibition. This has been quite hectic, but it is very satisfying to see all their hard work on display. Although I haven’t had much time to turn my attention to future exhibitions, I am most looking forward to putting together the summer exhibition on local Victorian cartoonist Martin Anderson aka ‘Cynicus’. His satirical cartoons make provocative comments on social justice and equality, so I am excited to explore these themes further in the exhibition, and perhaps get the opportunity to draw cartoons too!

Cynicus 'The Social Ladder' c. 1896. Courtesy of the St Andrews Preservation Trust
Cynicus ‘The Social Ladder’ c. 1896. Courtesy of the St Andrews Preservation Trust


Samantha Bannerman is Curator at the St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum. After graduating from the University of Dundee in 2011, she undertook a twelve month Museum Galleries Scotland Internship at The Black Watch Castle and Museum as a Collections Assistant. Following the internship, she remained at The Black Watch Museum as Project Collections Assistant, before moving into her new post this year.


  1. Hi curator, im gabriel kayonga from Rwanda. I did my mlitt from the univ. Of st andrews, did my internship at the preservation trust museum. You really work in a nice museum. Its good to learn from you about your experience as a curator. Just always think about that museum. Bless.

    • Hi Gabriel, thanks so much for your kind comment. It’s nice to know a blog can help us keep in contact with international colleagues. I was a curator at the University of St Andrews before coming to work at MGS, so it’s a place I also have fond memories of.

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