Commentary: The role of the curator is evolving

Erinn Roos-Brown, Blogging Fellow,, 5/16/13

There has been a lot of chatter in recent years about the "death of the curator." But is the role of the curator really dead, or is it just evolving? Once a position that glorified specialized knowledge on niche-like topics, this role is expanding, becoming user-friendly and reaching beyond the walls of institutions. It has grown well beyond the selection and placement of art or artifacts in a space; it has equally become about empowering the audience, collaboration, and innovation, both in a physical space and in the virtual world. Why is the role of curator changing? There are many factors -- an emphasis on education in the arts, advances in technology, racial demographic changes, the coming-of-age of the millennial generation, to name a few. Alan Brown and Steven Tepper wrote in a recent white paper that the 21st-century curator will be "called upon not only to select and organize arts programs, but to diagnose need in their communities, seek out new and unusual settings for their work, forge partnerships with a wide array of disparate stakeholders, and, in some cases, cede a certain amount of artistic control in order to gain broader impact." If we use this definition, then the days of getting a curatorial position based on specialized knowledge are over. What's next? For those who want to become curators, stop worrying that your career goals are going the way of the dinosaurs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities for curators, museum technicians and conservators will grow by 16% from 2010 to 2020. The role of the curator isn't dying, but the out-of-date definition is. In a way, these new curators are going to teach their audience how to be their own curators; they can teach them to curate their own experience in a way that works best for them.


Related: Curating in an era of attention deficit

Alexis Muellner, Tampa Bay Business Journal, 5/17/13

Our smartphone, fast-paced, low-attention-span era is impacting our cultural assets. That's very true at the Tampa Museum of Art, said its Executive Director Todd Smith. "If you go through the galleries in a museum now, more people are taking pictures than are actually looking," said Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a 2012 The Last Magazine post. "Studies show that people spend I think on average about three seconds looking at a picture. It's so sad. And now it's even less than that because the time they look at it is only the time it takes to raise their iPhone to [Van Gogh's] 'Starry Night' and press the button and then move on," she said in a panel discussion. The post provides some insights about how the face of curation is changing, and how museums, institutions and galleries respond to a cultural environment in which art is increasingly spectacle-oriented and "nearly everyone with a blog or Tumblr can be viewed as a bedroom curator."


Commentary: If you use the web, you are a 'curator'

Stephanie Buck,, 5/9/13

Today, curation encompasses a whole new catalog of professions, brands and tools -- and most revolve around the web. A curator is like that person at the beach with the metal detector, surfacing items and relics of perceived value. Only, a web curator shares those gems of content with their online audiences. And since people create 571 new websites every minute, tweet 175 million times per day and upload 48 hours of new video each minute, a curator's work is never done. It seems everywhere you look on the web, a different kind of curation is cropping up. Do you use Pinterest or Tumblr? You're a social curator -- or you're following users who are. Take a look at your Facebook profile, at the list of subreddits to which you subscribe. Notice any patterns? Sharing [your] interests makes you a curator. The term's sweeping definition has led some to criticize and attempt to narrow its use. "Assembling a group of tangentially related things and publishing them online does not make you a curator," writes Mel Buchanan, the Hermitage Museum's assistant curator in "An Open Letter to Everyone Using the Word 'Curate' Incorrectly on the Internet." But it's hard to argue that some people are capitalizing on their curation talents. Some media sites curate articles already published by other sites. For instance, Boing Boing and The Awl feed links [from] other sites around the web. Others take a more scientific approach, in the form of data curation -- people like Nate Silver. "I think that the liberal use of the term curator makes it stronger and more valuable," writes self-proclaimed "museum geek" Suse Cairns. "Some of our sector's lingo is making its way beyond the walls of our institutions, and getting picked up by the mainstream in a positive way ... If the hip and awesome are associated in some way with museums, great."


Related: 10 apps that will make you a content curator extraordinaire

Jim Berkowitz, Social Media Explorer, 4/25/13

It's difficult sometimes to keep up with all of the latest technology tools.  One of those areas that I've apparently fallen behind on is content curation and marketing.  Not good!  Because this is an area that has become, as Stephanie Graves notes, "the go-to audience-building strategy for top brands and organizations seeking to connect with their target audiences in a meaningful, non-sales-y way." With a little research I was able to come up with Talkwalker Alerts and Feedly.  I've been experimenting with who proudly claims that they are the "world's most advanced personalized content discovery application."   I also came across XYDO.  A content curation platform that "helps you find trending videos, articles, blog posts and photos relevant to your business and facilitates sharing it with your audience."  There are other interesting looking content curation solutions like Pearltrees, Curata and Content Gems which I haven't had a chance to play with yet. There's and for finding and publishing content on cool-looking online magazines and then sharing these on your other social media properties. But the application that intrigued me right away was Storify -- a tool to either alone, or collaboratively, construct details about an event or topic from sources all over the web and then organize and comment on them so that they tell a story.  The business version allows people and companies to create private stories and to customize them to match your blog style.  Storify is also being used to create reports that show actual examples of the current online sentiment towards a company.

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