A curator (from Latin : cura, meaning "to take care") is a manager or overseer. Traditionally, a curator or keeper of a cultural heritage institution (e.g., gallery, museum, library or archive) is a content specialist charged with an institution's collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material including historical artifacts.
A traditional curator's concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort — artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections. More recently, new kinds of curators have started to emerge: curators of digital data objects and biocurators.
In smaller organizations, a curator may have sole responsibility for acquisitions and even for collections care. The curator makes decisions regarding what objects to select, oversees their potential and documentation, conducts research based on the collection and its history, provides proper packaging of art for transportation, and shares research with the public and community through exhibitions and publications. In very small, volunteer-based museums such as those of local historical societies, a curator may be the only paid staff-member.
In larger institutions, the curator's primary function is that of a subject specialist, with the expectation that he or she will conduct original research on objects and guide the organization in its collecting. Such institutions can have multiple curators, each assigned to a specific collecting area (e.g., curator of ancient art, curator of prints and drawings, etc.) and often operating under the direction of a head curator. In such organizations, the physical care of the collection may be overseen by museum collections-managers or by museum conservators, with documentation and administrative matters (such as personnel, insurance, and loans) handled by a museum registrar.
In the United Kingdom, the term "curator" also applies to government employees who monitor the quality of contract archaeological work under Planning Policy Guidance 16: Archaeology and Planning (PPG 16) and manage the cultural resource of a region. In the museum setting, a curator in the United Kingdom may also be called a "keeper".
In Scotland, the term "curator" is also used to mean the guardian of a child, known as curator ad litem.[ citation needed ]
In the US, curators have multifaceted tasks dependent on the particular institution and its mission. But in recent years[ when? ] the role of the curator has evolved alongside the changing role of museums. As US museums have become increasingly more digitized, curators find themselves constructing narratives in both the material and digital worlds. Historian Elaine Gurian has called for museums in which "visitors could comfortably search for answers to their own questions regardless of the importance placed on such questions by others". This would change the role of curator from teacher to "facilitator and assistor". In this sense, the role of curator in the United States is precarious, as digital and interactive exhibits often allow members of the public to become their own curators, and to choose their own information. Citizens are then able to educate themselves on the specific subject they are interested in, rather than spending time listening to information they have no desire to learn.
More recently,[ when? ] advances[ which? ] in new technologies have led to a further widening of the role of curator. This has been a focus in major art institutions internationally and has become an object of academic study and research.[ citation needed ] A biocurator is a professional scientist who curates, collects, annotates, and validates information that is disseminated by biological and Model Organism Databases.
In contemporary art, the title "curator" identifies a person who selects and often interprets works of art. In addition to selecting works, the curator is often responsible for writing labels, catalog essays, and other content supporting exhibitions. Such curators may be permanent staff members, "guest curators" from an affiliated organization or university, or "freelance curators" working on a consultancy basis. The late-20th century saw an explosion of artists organizing exhibitions. The artist-curator has a long tradition of influence, notably featuring Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), inaugural president of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, founded in 1768.
In some US cultural organizations, the term "curator" may designate the head of any given division. This has led to the proliferation of titles such as "Curator of Education" and "Curator of Exhibitions". The term "literary curator" has been used to describe persons who work in the field of poetry, such as former 92nd Street Y poetry-director Karl Kirchwey.This trend has increasingly been mirrored in the United Kingdom in such institutions as Ikon, Birmingham, UK and Baltic, Gateshead, UK.
In Australia and New Zealand, the term also applies to a person who prepares a sports ground for use (especially a cricket ground).This job is equivalent to that of groundsman in some other cricketing nations.
In France, the term curator is translated as conservateur. There are two kinds of curators: heritage curators (conservateurs du patrimoine) with five specialities (archeology, archives, museums, historical monuments, natural science museums), and librarian curators (conservateurs des bibliothèques). These curators are selected by competitive examination and attend the INP (Institut National du Patrimoine). [ better source needed ] The "conservateurs du patrimoine" are civil servants or work in the public service; the use of the title by private workers is not possible.[ citation needed ]
Curators hold a high academic degree in their subject, typically a Doctor of Philosophy or a master's degree in subjects such as history, art, history of art, archaeology, anthropology, or classics.Curators are also expected to have contributed to their academic field, for example, by delivering public talks, publishing articles, or presenting at specialist academic conferences. It is important that curators have knowledge of the current collecting market for their area of expertise, and are aware of current ethical practices and laws that may impact their organisation's collecting.
The increased complexity of many museums and cultural organisations has prompted the emergence of professional programs in fields such as public history, public humanities, museum studies, arts management, and curating/curatorial practice.In 1992, the Royal College of Art established an MA course co-funded by the Royal College of Art and the Arts Council of Great Britain, the first in Britain to specialise in curating with a particular focus on contemporary art. The course is now funded by Arts Council England, and in 2001 the course title was amended to Curating Contemporary Art to more accurately reflect the content and primary focus of the programme. Similarly, a number of contemporary art institutions launched curatorial study courses as an alternative to traditional academic programs. Established in 1987, the École du Magasin is a curatorial training program based at the art center Le Magasin in Grenoble, France. Similarly, the Whitney Museum of American Art, through its independent study program, hosts a curatorial program as one of its three study areas, and de Appel arts centre has hosted a curatorial programme since 1994. Other institutions that run programs in curating include Norwich University of the Arts; The Courtauld Institute of Art; Kingston University; Goldsmiths, University of London; Birkbeck, University of London; Chelsea College of Arts; University of the Arts London; California College of the Arts; University of Southern California; Bard College; School of Visual Arts; the École du Louvre; the Institut national du patrimoine (The National Institute of Cultural Heritage); University of Rennes 2—Upper Brittany; OCAD University; and University of Melbourne. (See →External links for further information on courses.)
Community curation— also known as co-curation or public curation—is a movement in U.S. museums, public humanities organizations, and within the biocuration field to involve community members in various curatorial processes, including exhibit development and programming. Community members involved in community curation are likely not trained as museum professionals, but have vested interests in the outcomes of curatorial projects. Community curation is a response to the 19th century “information transmission” model of learning, in which museums are sources of expert knowledge and visitors are the recipients of that expertise. Community curation seeks not to abandon expertise, but to broaden definitions of expertise to “include broader domains of experience” that visitors bring to museums.
Community curation practices are varied. The Wing Luke Museum conducts community outreach at the beginning of exhibition projects, and convenes community advisory committees at various stages in the curatorial process.The Brooklyn Historical Society has accepted exhibit proposals from community members and trained them in curatorial skills to co-create exhibits. Such efforts to allow communities to participate in curation can require "more not less expertise from museum staff."
In the same way that a museum curator may acquire objects of relevance or an art curator may select or interpret a work of art, the injection of technology and impact of social media into every aspect of society has seen the emergence of technology curators.
Technology curators are people who are able to disentangle the science and logic of a particular technology and apply it to real-world situations and society, whether it is for social change, commercial advantage, or other purposes. The first U.K. Wired Conference had a test lab, where an independent curator selected technology that showcased radical technology advancements and their impact on society, such as the ability to design and "print" physical objects using 3D printers (such as a fully working violin) or the ability to model and represent accurate interactive medical and molecular models in stereoscopic 3D.
MLOVE,a Confestival started in 2010, celebrated the disruption of the perception of what a tech conference should be, using a radically more interactive format that drew on a variety of influences outside of the traditional world of technology, including religion, micro-banking for developing countries, and interactive art installations/workshops such as the Future Cube and a giant interactive video projection.
Museology or museum studies is the study of museums. It explores the history of museums and their role in society, as well as the activities they engage in, including curating, preservation, public programming, and education.
Lowery Stokes Sims is the retired Curator Emerita at the Museum of Arts and Design, where between 2007 and 2015, she served as the Charles Bronfman International Curator and then the William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator. From 2000 to 2007, Sims was executive director then president of The Studio Museum in Harlem and served as Adjunct Curator for the Permanent Collection. Sims was on the education and curatorial staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 to 1999. A specialist in modern and contemporary art she is known for her particular expertise in the work of African, Latino, Native and Asian American artists. She has published extensively and her research on the work of the Afro-Cuban Chinese Surrealist artist Wifredo Lam was published by the University of Texas Press in 2002. In 1997, she organized a survey of the work of Richard Pousette-Dart at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sims has lectured nationally and internationally and guest curated numerous exhibitions, most recently at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica (2004), The Cleveland Museum of Art and the New York Historical Society (2006). She is the editor and an essayist for the catalogue of the National Museum of the American Indian’s 2008 retrospective of Fritz Scholder. In 2003 and 2004, Sims served on the jury for the memorial for the World Trade Center and between 2004 and 2006, served as the chair of the Cultural Institutions Group, a coalition of museums, zoos, botanical gardens and performing organizations funded by the City of New York. Sims was a fellow at the Clark Art Institute in spring 2007. In 2005 and 2006, she was Visiting Professor at Queens College and Hunter College in New York City and in fall 2007, Visiting Scholar in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She was in the 2010 documentary film !Women Art Revolution.
Adam Lerner was the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and Chief Animator in the Department of Fabrications. He was the founder and Executive Director of The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar until The Lab merged with the MCA Denver in March 2009.
Jens Hoffmann Mesén is a writer, editor, educator, and exhibition maker. His work has attempted to expand the definition and context of exhibition making. From 2003 to 2007 Hoffmann was director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts London. He is the former director of the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art from 2007 to 2016 and deputy director for exhibitions and programs at The Jewish Museum from 2012 to 2017, a role from which he was terminated following an investigation into sexual harassment allegations brought forth by staff members. Hoffmann has held several teaching positions including California College of the Arts, the Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti and Goldsmiths, University of London, as well as others.
Public humanities is the work of engaging diverse publics in reflecting on heritage, traditions, and history, and the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of civic and cultural life. Public humanities is often practiced within federal, state, nonprofit and community-based cultural organizations that engage people in conversations, facilitate and present lectures, exhibitions, performances and other programs for the general public on topics such as history, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.
Richard Aitson is a Kiowa-Kiowa Apache bead artist, curator, and poet from Oklahoma.
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia is a contemporary art museum located in Atlanta. The museum collects and archives hundreds of contemporary works by Georgia artists. MOCA GA fulfills its mission through an exhibition schedule, increasing its permanent collection, and the Education/Resource Center, which houses the museum's historical archive collection.
The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a nonprofit grantmaking organization and knowledge-sharing hub for arts and culture in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, established in 2005. The Center receives funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and makes project grants in two areas, Performance and Exhibitions & Public Interpretation, as well as awarding grants to individual artists through Pew Fellowships. Its current mission is "investing in ambitious, imaginative, and catalytic work that showcases Philadelphia's cultural vitality and enhances public life." In 2008, Paula Marincola was named the first executive director.
Shared historical authority is a current trend in museums and historical institutions which aims to open the interpretation of history to the public.
Samia A. Halaby is a Palestinian artist and scholar who lives and works in New York. Born in Jerusalem in 1936 during the British Mandate, today she is recognized as one of the Arab world's leading contemporary painters. Since beginning her artistic career in the early 1960s, she has exhibited in galleries, museums, and art fairs throughout the US, Europe, Asia, and South America. Her work is housed in private and public collections around the world.
Claudia Gould is an art curator and the Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director of The Jewish Museum in New York City.
Erica Lehrer is an anthropologist, curator, and academic specializing in post-Holocaust Jewish culture, museum studies, ethnography, and public scholarship. She is Associate Professor of History and Sociology/Anthropology at Concordia University, where she holds a Canada Research Chair in Museum and Heritage Studies and serves as director of the Curating and Public Scholarship Lab at Concordia University.
Tami Katz-Freiman, former Chief Curator of the Haifa Museum of Art, is an art historian, curator and critic, based in Miami, Florida, where she works as an independent curator of contemporary art.
A community museum is a museum serving as an exhibition and gathering space for specific identity groups or geographic areas.
Claire Tancons is a curator, critic, and historian of art. She was born in Guadeloupe and is based in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Gary Russell Libby is an American art historian, author, educator and former museum director known for his books and scholarly exhibitions in the visual arts and his work on the history and development of the Florida School of Art.
Paula Marincola is executive director of the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is a contemporary art curator and critic. She was named one of the city's most influential and innovative people by Philadelphia Magazine. Marincola was awarded an honorary degree from Drexel University in 2018 as “a leader in the arts for more than three decades, playing a major role in shaping and fostering Greater Philadelphia’s vibrant arts and culture community.”
Maayan Sheleff is an independent art curator and artist based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Her projects explore social and political issues through participatory practices, at the intersection of art and technology.
Denise Ryner is a Canadian curator and writer. She is director and curator at Or Gallery, Vancouver. Ryner has worked as an independent curator, writer and educator at several galleries, artist-run centers and institutions, in Toronto, Vancouver and Berlin. Ryner has contributed to publications like FUSE magazine and Canadian Art magazine.
The Feminist Art Coalition (FAC) is a collaboration of over 100 art museums and nonprofit institutions from across the United States. The organizations are collectively creating a series of programming and exhibitions centered around feminist thought to be held beginning in the fall of 2020, during the run-up of the presidential election. The project was initially planned to occur from September through November 2020, but has been extended through the end of 2021 due to changes in exhibition schedules resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 92nd Street Y announces the departure of Karl Kirchwey, longtime director of the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center. Mr. Kirchwey will become Director of Creative Writing and Senior Lecturer in the Arts at Bryn Mawr College starting next fall. The Poetry Center is a program of the 92nd Street Y Tisch Center for the Arts, the Y's arts presenting division.[ permanent dead link ]
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