Reframing the Museum (4)

The last session of the museums conference that I was able to attend was on the age-old, but still highly contentious issue of the future of the curator, with a good and interesting range of speakers from institutions in both history and contemporary art, chaired by Andrew McClellan. Jessica Morgan, a former curator of the Tate, now director of the Dia Art Foundation, argued for the need for new skills and less adherence to traditional art historical expertise. There was an occasional presumption that curators hold disproportionate authority in the ways that works of art are acquired and interpreted. My own experience is that curators increasingly feel marginalised by the growth in other areas of the museum – digital, marketing, finance, learning, all of which require different forms of specialist professional expertise which subtly, but significantly displaces curatorial knowledge, not least in pay scales. I say this as a non-curator.

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4 thoughts on “Reframing the Museum (4)

  1. marinavaizey says:

    fascinating, my own experience as an outside observer is that subtly, over the past half century or so curators have in effect both been denigrated and demoted, and yet they are an essential component: museums are their collections and the people who understand study and care for them, as libraries are books and librarians, and then come audiences, support systems and all that to help engage with the public; but first and foremost you have to have something – collections and their interpreters – with which to engage the public

    • Dear Marina, Yes, this is a good statement of what’s happened. They haven’t necessarily been consciously demoted, but other skill sets have – for good reasons – been promoted, creating a feeling that their specialist knowledge and skills are undervalued. Charles

  2. joan says:

    I know nothing of this world but, given the mention of the role of curators, this seems an appropriate place to say how much I am enjoying the memoir ‘Patch Work’ by Claire Wilcox of the V&A. I am trying to ration it, all the better to savour it, but am already half way through.

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