Shifting Definitions of Curation

What does it mean to curate? No longer existing within the domain of the museum curation has shifted in definition and understanding over time. As explored in Kelly’s blog post it has moved into image hosting sites, personalised digital collections of images and beyond. Moving “into the vernacular”(Kelly, 2012) and out of the traditional definition it once had. However, from this concerns and implications arise. This contemporary definition of curation seems to stem from the need to maintain and filter data with the current rate we are generating it (Penn, 2011)Curating as a word is being used to try make sense and give structure to the massive amount of data available to us. Can reposting images on social media or making personalised image collections be classed as curation? It’s an interesting question to pose and I will argue that curation is more than this and that viewing it in such a way is a concern for the curation process as a whole especially in regards to image collections.

The need to address the changed nature of the word curation as acts such as to““pin” or save images ” (Kelly, 2012) do not capture what curation entails. Looking at the definition of curation from Oxford dictionary “A keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection:“ also does not contain the wide scope curation holds. What does curation entail then? Curation is not simply a transposition of one medium to another nor is it simply collecting and displaying images. If the process of curation was simply the previous then contention would not exist in curation processes. The wider scope of curation is what causes it to contain concerns. The more contemporary definition of curation leads one to believe it is a passive act. Concerns arise in placing curation as a passive act as it forgoes the processes of curation itself. Although in stating this, concerns also arise from it not being a passive act. In curating one imprints a framing and exposition onto the subject. This is especially true for curating image collections. The way images are stored and displayed can lead to these concerns. Unstructured metadata schemes and choices as I have mentioned in previous blog posts can often make the process of curating images a failure. Image collections are tricky as one has to form curative structures which contain the meaning and context of the images in a collection. This is all part of curation and separates it from just collecting images. The reason why the newer definition of curating doesn’t hold true to the process is that it simplifies the concerns curation creates. The newer definition concerns itself with containing of the vast amount of data available to us and one of the most prevalent media forms being images. These are some of the concerns with regards to curating image collections.

“Curator- Definition of Curator in English” Oxford, accessed 15 Nov. 2016.

Kelly, Chelsea Emelie(2012) “What Does it Mean To “Curate?””. Milwaukee Art Museum accessed 15 Nov. 2016.

Penn, Christopher(2011) “The dangers of aggregation and curation” accessed 15 Nov. 2016.

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