Death of the curator. Long live the curator.

For a long time now, I’ve been pushing hard the idea of journalist-as-curator. It appears that curators are looking at journalists and worrying about their loss of control, as evidenced by this post about the death of the curator, inspired by journalists – the Guardian – and curators – the Saatchi Gallery – enabling the great unwashed to help curate a show:

Museum curators and print journalists have a lot in common, in that it is their skills that turn an amount of information into something worth giving a damn about. There are plenty of other places to find out about the DefCon of journalism, especially the ever increasing problem of how to get paid. At this current moment in time, the museum curator is “safe”, got nothing to worry about. “It will all blow over”. The fact that there is a gallery in London who are going to offer thousands of people, many without art history degrees, the ability to choose what goes on the wall. The first step new media did to try to kill old media was to make the skills unimportant under the banner of “democratising”. “Everybody can get involved!” also means “It doesn’t matter what you know!”. Suddenly, your art history or archaeology degree isn’t looking so important, your museum post-grad may not be enough and your years of experience don’t mean much in the world of facemuseumtube when your job can be done by a thousand unpaid contributors. Curators may be safe now, but they would do well to look over their shoulders to their destitute journalist buddies.

Every priesthood, it seems, is having a fit over loss of its centralized control: How dare people pick what they like without history degrees or share what they know without journalism degrees! The nerve!

Except the irony in this comparison is that journalists need to learn better curatorial skills. Yes, in a sense, they’ve always curated information, collecting it, selecting it, giving it context in their stories. But now they have to do that across a much vaster universe: the internet. I hear all the time about the supposed problem of too much information online. Wherever you see a problem, I advise, seek the opportunity in it. There is a need to curate the best of that information (and even the people who gather it). We have many automated means to aggregate news (including Daylife, where I’m a partner). Curation is a step above that, human selection. It’s a way to add value.

I think that curators have things to teach journalists and that’s why I’m planning a symposium on curation at CUNY, bringing together museum curators, event curators, possibly even sommeliers to share their views of the value they add to collections of things, people, information – or wine. Note that one of the suggestions I make in What Would Google Do? is to capture the data of dining room – which wines went well with which dishes, according to diners – to crowdsource the job of the sommelier. Yes, every priesthood is vulnerable to the crowd.

[via Das Kulturemanagement blog]