Curator: Natural Science

Curators look after collections of specimens (e.g. dried plant specimens, archaeological artefacts from the Stone Age, preserved animal species, shells, butterflies, seed banks etc.).

They work mostly in the country’s museums and national parks, in herbariums at universities and in the country’s national botanical gardens run by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Curator technicians are responsible for helping to build exhibitions and install and maintain collections. Curators plan exhibitions, oversee the management of exhibitions, and often also manage departments or entire organisations.

Collections of plants and animals are interesting and valuable records of the biodiversity of life on earth. They are used to educate people who may never get to see such a variety of life in nature itself, and they are very useful sources of information for research. Collections of ancient bones and artefacts are treasure troves showing the history of all mankind and the vital place of Africa in particular, in the history of the world. Curators are the custodians of this wealth of information. They increasingly use sophisticated software and electronic databases to store and catalogue information about their collections, which may also enable them to compare their collections with others around the world.

Although museums and herbariums are often fairly quiet places, the curator usually has to manage staff, as well as promote their work in order to attract the necessary resources to protect, enlarge and display their collections.

Personal Requirements

  • sound analytical and research skills
  • good communication and people skills are an advantage
  • some artistic and/or technical aptitude and good judgement
  • organisational / administrative ability
  • patience for fine work and attention to detail
  • responsible, ethical, self-motivated, persistent and versatile
  • computer skills and manual dexterity ? able to work well in small teams

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BSc degree with Botany and Zoology and some of the following subjects: Anthropology, Archaeology or Geography, courses available at most universities.

Diploma: Library and Information Studies - UNISA, DUT, TUT

Postgraduate: after the degree, take a postgraduate course in the field that you wish to pursue, e.g. Plant Systematics

Possible Career Paths

Curator technicians could take a BSc part-time and become a curator when they qualify.


  • universities
  • libraries and museums
  • government agencies such as SAIAB, SANBI
  • archives
  • schools
  • HSRC

Further Information

Albany Museum
Somerset Street
Eastern Cape
Tel: (046) 622-2312

The Compton Herbarium
Kirstenbosch Research Centre
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Rhodes Avenue
Cape Town
Tel: (021) 799-8769 / (021) 799-8800

2 Cussonia Ave
Brummeria, Pretoria
Claremont, 7735
Tel: (021) 843-5000

Iziko Museums
South African Museum
PO Box 61
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 481-3800

Programmes by Study Institutions

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