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.