Internet Curation 4.27.12

Here’s a collection of some interesting and fun museum-related articles floating about the internet this month.

President’s Park in Williamsburg, VA was slated for auction yesterday, proving that The Burg’s love for patriotic kitsch actually has limits. (Remember, this is the town where you can see people in colonial garb buying beer at your local convenience store.) Declining income forced the park to close in September 2010.  Visitor reviews offer a glimpse at the tourist oddity that was. No word as to why the sale was cancelled, but a private investor is interested in the property. If you wanted a giant Millard Fillmore head for your lawn, you may have missed out.

The Atlantic recently discussed how “Museums Want to Entertain You” with technology. Are smart phones now an inevitable exhibit component?

Speaking of exhibitions, the Tate Britain’s upcoming Pre Raphaelites: Victorian Avant Garde looks fantastic. I’m curious to see how many pieces the show borrows from the Delaware Art Museum’s excellent Pre-Raphaelite collections. Even more exciting, the exhibition will travel to Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art in 2013.

Finally, this piece on linguistic inflation alerted me to the growing use of the word “curate” in non-museum contexts. Now that I think about it, I’ve seen several style bloggers describe themselves as “curators” of accessory collections, etc.

Last fall actual-curator of the Hermitage Collection Lauren Northrop posted a brilliant rant about what she feels is a twee, oversimplifying trend. “I believe curating is the passing of a torch. It is the care and protection of cultural property. It is something not to be undertaken lightly, and it does not happen with the click of a mouse.”

Similarly, a Gizmodo article recently pleaded “Stop Calling It Curation.” Finding cool stuff on the internet does not make you a scholar, and having good taste is not as praiseworthy as creating inspiring original content. “‘Curation’ is an act performed by people with PhDs in art history; the business in which we’re all engaged when we’re tossing links around on the Internet is simple ‘sharing’ …we’re not providing any sort of ontology or semantic continuity beyond that of our own whimsy or taste or desire.”

What do you think? Are stylists and artists misusing a technical term? Is it helpful or harmful to museums when the general public start calling themselves curators? Should I change the title of this feature, which I meant to be slightly ironic?

Personally, I think it’s great if people think about what curators do and how they can relate to it. When I analyze material culture in movies and wedding magazines I’m only half kidding; material culture is a discipline that shed light on people’s lives no matter their century. The one danger is that “curator” becomes an over-saturated pop-culture buzzword. In two years I’ll brace myself for the anti-twee backlash that forgets professional curating requires serious training and scholarship.