SXSW Proposal: “Everyone’s a Curator: Do Museums Still Matter?”

In the age of social media, everyone is a curator (or at least they think they are). Media-rich networks have empowered anyone with an interest in art to both disseminate and publish their own creative images and groupings of artworks—essentially, creative Internet users have the ability to assume the roles of curator, artist, and critic, all at the same time. Where do museums fit into this picture, and how can traditional museum curators align their practice with social media users to create meaningful cultural experiences with a public hungry for new ideas and personal resonance?

Everyone's a CuratorKathy Jaller of the Contemporary Jewish MuseumSarah Bailey Hogarty of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,  Jennifer Yin of the Asian Art Museum, and I have submitted a panel to SXSW Interactive that addresses the implications of social media on the role of museum curators. If we’re selected (out of more than 3,000 panel submissions, gulp), our panel will discuss the ways in which technology can enhance or strain against museum conventions, with a focus on digital projects that have fostered engaging art experiences at our institutions. We will also examine how these projects point the way towards new methods of fulfilling the ultimate museum mission of being a place of insight and inspiration.

Please check out the description and questions we’ll address here, breeze through our slideshare (designed by the one-and-only Kathy), and then VOTE FOR OUR PANEL! If our panel gets chosen, I promise to live-tweet the sh*t out of the most interesting art/tech/social media panels for anyone who’s unable to attend the conference in person (pretty much all of my museum/non-profit buddies).

PS… SPOILER ALERT: yes, museums do still matter. Duh.


Susan Cairns + Danny Birchall‘s Museums and the Web Paper, Curating the Digital World: Past Preconceptions, Present Problems, Possible Futures

Excerpt: Whilst previously the process of filtering information and culture could be trusted to curators and academics, to publishers of books and editors of news and journals, the continuously burgeoning data has broken the informational floodgates. The influx of new voices, of new curators of information, that has arrived in response threatens the very notion of a canon of knowledge with established common languages and understandings of the world. How can any single frame of reference shape a discussion about what will be important to history, when so many individual and self-appointed curators now control flows of knowledge? How can museums make sense and meaning of such inordinate amounts of hyperconnected data, organised flatly and without a clear hierarchy for establishing value? Read more→

Jalees Rehman for 3 Quarks Daily, Curating Creativity

Excerpt: Especially in world in which meaningful information is becoming one of our most valuable commodities, it might be time to start acknowledging the flux of information that shapes our thinking and our creativity. We are beginning to recognize the importance of people who are links in the information chain and help separate out meaningful information from the “senseless cacophony”. Perhaps we should therefore also acknowledge all the sources of information, not only those who generated it but also those who manage the information or guide us towards the information. Read more→

Traditional Museum Experience

How can traditional museum experiences sync up with the public’s urge to “curate” and share?

Carina Chocano for the New York Times, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Trouble with ‘Curation’

Excerpt: “Curation” does imply something far more deliberate than these inspiration blogs, whose very point is to put the viewer into an aesthetic reverie unencumbered by thought or analysis. Read more→

Thomas Samph for Social Media Today, The Rise of the Social Media Curator

Excerpt: So while the Internet may seem big and scary, curation is happening all around us. It becomes manageable. And the sites we choose to spend our time on and the channels in which we look for content benefit. What separates the people on this list is not only that they’ve found a niche and stuck to it, but they’ve created platforms and networks that allow their content curation to thrive… In the future, content curation is going to be an incredibly important part of managing the Internet. Read more→

Matthew Petrie for The Guardian, Dear museums: the time is right to embrace mobile

Excerpt: Photography and object information offer the richest immediate potential, as by far the most frequently reported smartphone activity while at a museum is taking a photo or video of an object on view… 

Museums, as you are enjoying record attendance levels, the time is right for you to seize the opportunity and increase the digital offering to your captive audience. You’ll motivate new visitors to come in, and encourage existing ones to come back for more. Read more→

Dan Thornton on The Way of the Web, Everyone’s a Curator Now

Excerpt: How much more content is being produced already which isn’t being curated and tagged, and therefore lies undiscovered? And how many more people will start creating collections of items which interest them, using tools which are easier and more accessible than a traditional blog? We’ve already seen that to some extent with the rise of simpler tools such as Tumblr, or the amount of video and photo content which is being shared on Facebook every day, along with the immense volume of videos on Youtube. And there seems to have been an increase in tools and services which attempt to help curation, whether it’s the more established universal shopping and fashion industries, or newer ideas. But none of them have got mass traction yet – if one does, how will that change things. Is there a way, for example, for a service to help me not only collect and curate everything I might have uploaded to Facebook, but to easily let me share it outside of that particular walled garden? Read more→

2 thoughts on “SXSW Proposal: “Everyone’s a Curator: Do Museums Still Matter?””

  1. Suse
     ·  Reply

    Willa, this is super exciting! I will go and vote right now, and hope that you get selected. it sounds hugely interesting, and I’m looking forward to hearing your take on the conversation.

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