A few weeks ago (actually, this topic seems to creep up once or twice a year) I asked on Twitter whether it was the curators’ responsibility to embrace social media and other digital technology within their roles or should it be left to the department to which these roles already exist. There were a lot of interesting replies:
Curators already have too much on their plate. They have had to adjust from a history background to working with a business model. Curators are also traditionalists - this new fangle technology isn’t going to last (eg – it has to prove itself to curators).
Yes, they need to move with the times. Curators should translate collections and digital helps that translation. Social media and other digital apps help curators with that translation so they need to use it.
From this, Kelvin De Veth agreed to write this Guest Blogs with his thoughts on the subject.
Role of a Modern Day Curator in a Digital World
It may be a bit early to give the 21st century a name, but so far it definitely seems to be the digital century. You can’t walk across Times Square or through the Louvre without bumping into crowds of people taking out their phones and iPads to take a picture and upload it to their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Museums, showcasing past and present societies, will inevitably be influenced by this advancement in technology. The curator, in particular, will be affected by these changes. His/her profession has become much more accessible to the general audience, resulting in an explosion of “Twitter curators”, “Pinterest curators”, and so on. I don’t want to go into a discussion about what a curator is or should be, but this development will without a doubt have its effects on the curators working in museums, and their relationship with the digital world.
In my modest research and conversations with curators, I have found two major, and almost completely opposite, approaches to the challenges and opportunities created by advancing technologies.
These are a group of curators who aim to make their exhibitions as innovative as possible, both in content and exhibition design. Translating and presenting the meaning of a certain history can become much more accessible to the visitor via digital media. The audience can become more involved and interact with exhibitions before or after entering the physical space. Thanks to digital media, they don’t even need to visit anymore to get the basic gist of the show.
I have heard some great ideas for interpretation, such as using social media profiles to tailor the interpretation to the visitors’ interests and existing knowledge. It may still be a while until technology allows this, though.
Traditionalists are more wary about implementing digital media in exhibitions. There is a fear that by being too focused on the digital, it will alienate the segment of the audience that is not tech savvy. On top of that, the added pressure of staying up-to-date with all recent technological development and incorporating these into exhibitions can be too demanding on the curator—especially for curators who aren’t immersed in the tech world to begin with. One can wonder how much a focus on the tech side will actually benefit the exhibition content.
These seem to be the two main camps that divide the curatorial world at the moment, and there is no real consensus about to what extent the integration of technology in exhibitions is the responsibility of the curator. We need more time to see to what extent it is beneficial, but in the meantime it will be interesting to hear what the readers of this blog think.
What are your thoughts? Should curators embrace digital/social media or should that be left for ‘others’?
There have been a few fabulous and very detailed post on Museum on the Web which I’m not going to try and compete with. Instead, after being home for a few weeks (and finally getting over jet lag) these are the items that still are prominent with me.
Facebook killed 25% of the website
While in the Tate web assessment session, we were asked to come up with a profile of an average visitor to a website. Originally we had a personal website but soon realized the profile required a more established website and as Guggenheim was within our group, they were duly elected. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Conference, International, museums, mw2013, USA
While in Philadelphia I was invited to visit Chemistry Heritage Foundation as my sister Darlene Cavalier, who runs Sci Starter, had a meeting there. I went but must admit, I wasn’t looking forward to it (I can say that now that I’m 3500 miles away again).
A museum on chemistry? Really? It just sounded like watching paint dry. Even when I walked in I remember saying ‘well this isn’t going to take me long…’
Boy was I ever wrong!
Chemistry Heritage Foundation (CHF) has turned into one of my favourite museums on so many different levels. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: museums, Philadelphia, review, science, USA
Yesterday, I was invited to do just that at the American History Museum Tweetup that took place as part of #musesocial discussion online (Twitter).
Ten of us were privileged to this experience this week and I can honestly say it was a day I will never forget.Tags: #musesocial, curator, curator talk, smithsonian, USA
I’ve been trying to figure out how best to share my findings from the Denmark Museum Conference. There was so much insight over the 3 days, with the added bonus of having a tour of a few museums which included curators talk.
Full Storify here of all the tweets used with the tag #paatvaers
Tags: denmark, International, museomix, outreach
March 24th, 2013Culture
I recently attended the preview of V&A’s extremely popular David Bowie Is exhibition. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of David Bowie. The one minor link is his work with Jim Henson on Labyrinth and I like the song Under Pressure. Other than that, he was just a character with a cult following I never really grasp.
Top tip: Take the Headphones!
After your ticket is checked, you are offered a headset. Take it! This is not your normal audio guide with punching in numbers. The V&A digital team has used RFID technology throughout the exhibition to automatically launch the appropriate information, song, interviews, etc depending on where you are in the gallery. This was brilliant as it meant I didn’t have to go up to the display and locate the audio guide symbol and number, nor did I have to punch the number in. This raised the exhibition to a different level for me as I found myself staying longer in areas to finish listening to what was being shared.Tags: #davidbowieis, David Bowie, digital, London, Museum, V&A
Whenever I tell someone I’m working on MuseoMix UK for November, the first obvious question I get is:
What is MuseoMix?
For three days the participants co-create and test new ways of approaching exhibitions.
We bring together museum professionals, actors of the innovation and the digital world, lovers of art and science, and other lovers of education and culture. This community mixes his views and embodies his ideas around a model museum whose vision is:
- more open and inclusive, where everyone can find “his” place
- networked and connected with diverse communities of visitors online and onsite.
- a living laboratory that grows with its users
Tags: digital, France, International, museomix, participatory
For me, MuseoMix is an experience. For others, it’s an ethos. For others it’s a project.
This morning, I got involved in a conversation on Twitter that was lively, with a hint of debate and sadly, still no answer.
A little background:
Back in April, 2012, Peter Davies sent me a copy of Museums and the Disposal Debate: A Collection of Essays @pjdavies2000 @museumsetc.
As an archivist wife, I’m well familiar with the issues involved in decommission and disposal (as related to puppets). Every debate seems to be around money: storage, ownership, current economic issues, responsibility, etc.
The big issue for me has always been this: Once an item or collection is disposed, it can’t be undone. Our current economics should not be the reason, or excuse, to decommission and ruin any chance for future generations to have the art/collection because we couldn’t handle our wallet.
Reality is we mustn’t let economics be the assessor in evaluation of the works at that time.
I’ve Storified the Twitter conversation here (with permission). What are your thoughts?
*Please note, these are our opinions and not those related to employee yada yada yadaTags: Collection Management, Disposals Debate, museums, twitter
February 9th, 2013Literacy
Today is National Libraries Day in the UK. I’m sure you noticed all the #lovelibraries and #NLD13 talk on Twitter – everyone expressing the positives of what libraries means to them.
My story with libraries, like so many others, is very personal. Like so many people, we couldn’t afford books growing up. I remember several independent book shops that used to be very welcoming but always had an air of elitism about them (looking back, it was my prejudice and stereotyping). Maybe it’s because the owners always had cats and typical arm chairs that were associated with ‘rich’ people. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Libraries, Love Libraries, National Libraries Day, NLD13
February 3rd, 2013Culture
Volunteers. Those brilliant people that give up their time to help and provide services wherever it’s needed. Sometimes they fill the gap where there was once a paid position; sometimes it’s a service that has never been associated with the institution until the volunteer offered.
Either way, it’s always a Win Win for both the volunteer and the museum.
A few years ago, Volunteer Coordinator position was not even thought of. The handful of volunteers that did come forward were usually mature people with recently acquired spare time on their hands (read that as retired).Tags: Attingham Park, Best practice, museums, Volunteer