Sunday, March 7, 2010


A curator's job is highly unknown. In Spanish, the word for curator (curador) can also be translated as, literally, “healer”. Can you foresee all the misinterpretations and confusions this may lead to? Most people will be biased into thinking that a curator is a restorer. It kind of makes sense. I used to think this way. If there's an old, damaged object, we can say it is somehow sick, so a healer (curador) would come in very handy. But, as I later learned and as you know, a curator is not a restorer or a conservator. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the keeper of a museum or other collection”, coming from the latin curare, “to take care of”. On more practical basis, it could be taken as the person in charge of giving meaning to an exhibition in a museum.

But, who is this people? Who made the curator a curator? What institution has the power to appoint a person to be the one giving meaning to our museums? This are very worn
-outed theoretical questions that still arise when talking about this matters, and that probably will never come to an end.

Some museums are starting to come with what could be taken as metacuratorial processes. Let's see what's going on at the ever-museum-example, the Louvre. Nowadays, they offer a series of thematic trails. You can choose to
follow the A Lion Hunt or the The Da Vinci Code trails. While they might be presented as an inocent topic-tour developed by educators, what they really are is a curatorial script based on the public's needs and interests, skiping thematic rooms or expert-curated orders.

Even so, this approach still comes from the museum itself. Meanwhile, a global phenomena has been growing in our computers. Yes. The so called information highway. The web of networks. The goddamned Internet. With it's growth, experts are no longer needed. Why buy the Brittanica Encyclopedia when we have our own community built Wikipedia? The impact of the Internet on the experts' downfall can clearly be seen in the music industry. Anyone with Internet access can open a Blogger account and become a music critic. Many times, a way better and far more interesting music critic than the institution-appointed ones. So, farewell Rolling Stone Magazine, hello Club Fonograma.

Is there such a trend in museums? Sure. Publications like The New Yorker offer their readers podcasts about exhibits that you can take along with you in your iPod. So does Slate Magazine, going as far as subtitling their section The Commentary Museums Don't Want You To Hear. Emerging groups like Art Mobs are threatening to remix MoMA. And there you go: you pay your fee at the museum's entrance, plug your earbuds into your head, and start walking following a curatorial guideline that might be not only different, but straight opposite to the museum's curator idea.

This article was never intended to be a manifiesto to overturn curators. Is just a reminder to them. A warning sign. Are they listening to the public? Are they responding to the visitor's needs?