What is a curator, and what do they do?
When I started blogging about contemporary craft and design over 10 years ago, little did I know that it would lead me to the role of curator. It was a natural progression from curating content to curating exhibitions. With the onset of the digital age, the role of a curator has come under scrutiny, particularly as blogging and social media have blurred the lines of what is a curator, what they do, and who gets to be called a curator.
To answer the first part, a curator is someone who researches, gathers, organises, presents, and preserves information that is relevant to a specialist subject. Curators tend to specialise in: a specific topic (i.e. contemporary craft, loom woven textiles), a period (i.e. mid-century modern, Arts and Crafts Movement) and/or an artist, maker, or designer (i.e. Magdalene Odundo, William Morris).
Curators organise exhibitions and manage and maintain collections and archives. Their duties can include writing articles, essays and books, and teaching on their topic. Curators get their name from the Latin word, which means ‘guardian’, ‘overseer’ ‘manager’.
Different types of curators include:
- Museum, gallery or library curators – attached to a cultural institution, in charge of their collections including heritage and historical objects
- Independent curators – not attached to an organisation so will mount their own exhibitions or will collaborate with different organisations on one-off or ongoing projects
- Designer-maker-artists – who organise solo or group exhibitions of their own or their contemporaries’ work
- Private/family curators – work for a (usually wealthy) family or a corporate organisation buying and collecting work on their behalf and maintaining their collection
- Content curators – who represent a new era of curation because they often spot and support up-and-coming talent by showcasing their work on their platforms. Like curators, content curators gather, package, and present information about a particular topic or area of interest. Bloggers, website and social media platform owners fall into this category
Where applicable a curator will cultivate ongoing relationships with artists, designers and makers, helping to develop their careers.
[Image credits: The image shown belongs to Matheus Viana via pexels. If downloaded and used elsewhere please credit accordingly.]