Being a curator is probably one of the most difficult roles in the area of preservation, conservation and presentation of cultural heritage in its analog or digital form. It is quite daunting to take on the responsibility of selecting which objects are worth saving and sharing with the society and which aren’t significant enough to be displayed – either as part of digital archives or various exhibitions. Some would argue that in order to perform this work one needs to possess vast and very specialized knowledge. Others believe that the curation, especially the one concerned with heritage, should involve not only the specialists, but more importantly: the public, appointing every individual a curator responsible for all the features of their culture that they consider vital for their heritage.
We are raised in the society in which our mind is put to rest once we know we’re in the hands of a professional. It is easier to trust someone smarter to make the right choice for us and believe that Bosch was indeed a great artist, because if the specialists say so they must be right. But what criteria do they follow? What determines the value of an artifact if not social and cultural context? Of course these change and it’s the role of curator to be able to provide and explain relevant historical and cultural context to the audience of the curated object. I can see the appeal of this approach, yet in the age of the Web, it is impossible to limit oneself only to the knowledge of the professional curator.
On the other hand, the “communal curation” allows large group of individuals to participate in the process.Social media curation uses the kind of platforms which were designed to help to control the flood of information, yet they also contribute to it by allowing constant, growing flow of data. The digital character of this kind of curation has the furthest reach and offers variety of platforms to users, which in terms can highlight different areas of interest (Valenza, Boyer, Curtis 60). Curation through social media – and other community focused platforms or projects – gives us greater variety of curated collections and lessens the risk of discarding (or losing) precious pieces of cultural heritage.
This brings us to my final concern regarding curation of collections, which is the ongoing debate about what’s worth preserving. More precisely, the ever present dichotomy between so called ‘high’ culture and popular culture. There is a tendency among the national institutions to overlook pop culture as worthy of preservation among more ‘prestigious’ artifacts. Yet, it is present in our everyday lives at all time – it is defined by the way we live, but it also defines the living, which in my opinion is one of the most important feature of cultural heritage. For this reason, it is crucial to find a balance between professional and communal curation in order to carry on the fullest picture of our society for the future generations.
Getty Images. “Curating Prestige: the best of creative imagery“. YouTube 16 October 2015. Web. 20 November 2016.
Pollack, Florian. “The museum of the future – the museum of the world|Florian Pollack|TEDxLinz”. TEDxTalks. YouTube 29 October 2015. Web. 19 November 2016.
Schilp, Erik. “Re-thinking museums – We are all curators|Erik Schilp|TEDxLeiden”. TEDxTalks. YouTube 4 February 2015. Web. 20 November 2016.
Valenza, Joyce Kasman. “Social Media Curation”. Chicago, US: ALA TechSource, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 24 November 2016.