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Mentoring for Curators

The experience of having a mentor was really rewarding, I grew my network, developed new skills and I felt like I had support and encouragement from someone very senior in the sector.”

Samantha Johnson, AAH Curatorial Committee

Mentoring can be a valuable tool of professional and personal development. In 2022 we organised a survey of curators which indicated a strong desire within the sector for more opportunities to mentor and be mentored. In response, we now offer several pathways towards mentoring, defined here as the sharing of knowledge, expertise and skills with someone to help them progress in their careers.

Speed Mentoring

We currently offer speed mentoring events three times a year. At these events, which are held online or in person, selected applicants meet with 3-4 mentors over the course of 90 minutes.

Past mentors at such events have included Sonia Solicari (Director of the Museum of the Home), Uthra Rajgopal (Assistant Curator for Textiles and Wallpaper, Whitworth Art Gallery) and Christopher Riopelle (The Neil Westreich Curator of Post-1800 Paintings, National Gallery).

Speed mentoring events are advertised on our website and through email to those who have signed up to receive news. Please sign up if you are interested in hearing more about these and other events.

You can view details of upcoming Speed Mentoring events listed here.

Peer support

We also facilitate peer support,matching curators interested in developing supportive professional contacts beyond their own institution.

This is an opportunity for curators to gain a fresh perspective by talking about their career situations and the issues they face with someone going through similar experiences and at a similar stage in their career.

If you are interested in offering and receiving peer-to-peer support, please email curators@forarthistory.org.uk letting us know:

  • why you would welcome peer support
  • the issues you are facing
  • how external advice might be beneficial
  • what knowledge, experience, skills, and qualities you are looking for in a peer supporter
  • what you can offer as a peer supporter.

We shall review your email and try to match you up with one or more potential peer supporters. We aim to match you with a peer within a month but if a match is not immediately available your note will remain on file until one is found or you withdraw your request.

Once a potential match is identified, you will be asked whether you wish to proceed and then introduced via email to a potential peer supporter. You will be responsible for establishing and managing the relationship, which can be as light touch or as intensive as you both wish.

You may find our mentoring guidelines helpful, as you frame, establish, and later conclude the relationship. 

Mentoring

Anyone can be a mentor and anyone can be a mentee, we all have experiences and insights we can offer each other.

Finally, we support curators in creating their own mentoring relationships as a mentee, ones that best support their individual needs, through offering mentoring guidelines. These offer advice about what to consider when first envisaging and then framing a mentorship.

We also encourage curators to consider offering their time and experiences as a mentor. If you are interested in mentoring at one of our Speed Mentoring events please contact us <email address> 

Share your experience with us

“Early in my career when I was a Curatorial Assistant I knew that I needed writing and publishing experience to progress but my role at the time didn’t include writing. I wrote to a curator at an external organisation who had written and published extensively and variedly. I explained what my challenge was and what I was looking for as well as giving a few details about my career and my academic background. Luckily, the curator was keen to help and agreed to meet with me three times. During the first session, we got to know each other a bit better and thrashed out my problem a bit more and she gave me some ‘homework’ to complete before our next meeting. At the next meeting she reviewed the work I’d done and gave me some feedback and further steps. By the end of the third session, I was writing art historical editorial for several publications and I was able to take the next steps in my career. The experience was really rewarding, I grew my network, developed new skills and I felt like I had support and encouragement from someone very senior in the sector.”

Samantha Johnson

The experience of being mentored can prove very valuable for curators seeking to develop their careers or find help to deal with specific challenges. It can also be rewarding for mentors, who find they build skills in listening, coaching and giving advice, while also themselves gaining a fresh perspective on the challenges others face.

At the same time, the prospect of talking frankly about difficulties may make some people feel vulnerable. We hope that following our mentoring guidelines will help mitigate such apprehensions or any sense of risk felt by mentees or mentors. 

We are keen to hear about your experiences of mentoring and any tips that you would like to share. If you would be happy for us to use your feedback on our site, please contact us at curators@associationforarthistory.org.uk

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