Born and trained in England, Caroline Goldthorpe began her career as a curator by volunteering in the Department of Textiles and Dress at the Victoria and Albert Museum at the age of 15. She interned during high school and college and then worked there as a curator for four years. She relocated to work as curator of the Willis Local History Museum in Hampshire in addition to keeper of costume and textiles of Hampshire County Museum Service. After three years she became deputy head of the costume department at the Museum of London.
Moving to New York, she was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for six years, and curated the exhibition (and wrote the accompanying book) From Queen to Empress; Victorian Dress 1837–1877, seen by over 200,000 people in its four month run.
Goldthorpe was subsequently curatorial consultant for Ringwood Manor, the summer home of the Cooper-Hewitt family, taught in the MA in Museum Studies program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and was called in by Sotheby’s New York, for “expert testimony” regarding a disputed Mary Cassatt.
After moving to Chicago, she taught a history of fashion course in the art history department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Goldthorpe is now director of the Museum Studies certificate program at Northwestern University, and received the 2008–09 SPS Distinguished Teaching Award. She teaches museum origins and missions and learning and museums, both online and on campus. She also created and teaches the annual two-day summer symposium The Exhibit: From Concept to Opening and Beyond.
Goldthorpe also teaches collections management and the house museum in the University of Oklahoma's online MA in Museum Studies, mentors students doing their project semesters and chairs final exam panels, and has acted as professional adviser within the MA in Applied Professional Studies program at DePaul University.
In addition to lecturing widely, she is a Lifetime Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the UK Museums Association, The Museum Education Roundtable, Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, the Costume Society of America and the Textile Society at the Art Institute of Chicago.