Journal Review: Curator

Written for Museum Practices Class, Fall 2010

For the second assignment I chose to review the quarterly publication Curator: The Museum Journal. According to the website, this journal has been published for fifty years as a resource for museum professionals written by other museum professionals. The journal strives to cover most aspects of museum professionalism from education to collections management among many other topics. [1]

This journal is accessible from the University of Memphis website. The full-text articles are published through the WilsonWeb Journal Directory online periodical database. I reviewed the issues from July 2008, April 2008, January 2008, October 2007, and July 2007. This selection of articles offered several diverse topics relating to museum practices including education and interpretation, conservation, marketing, exhibits, ethics, and the visitor experience. There were several articles in the issues reviewed relating to these various topics, so in this paper I will summarize the content of the articles from each category.

The most prominent subject that I found throughout these journals was education and interpretation. In the July 2008 issue an article by D. Anderson, et al. titled “Competing Agendas: Young Children’s Museum Field Trips” focuses on understanding the personal agendas of visitors[2]. The article examines how museum operators can overcome competing agendas of children and adults to enhance the learning experience for children on field trips and to make the most of the learning experience. In the April 2008 publication, the article titled “Interpretation and the Role of the Viewer in Museums of Modern and Contemporary Art” by P. Carter-Birken presents evidence from studies that shows visitors want more information about the interpretation of art in museums.[3] The author offers her views on this problem and possible solutions that would not detract from personal interpretation.

Along with education, the area visitor experience is addressed in several issues of Curator. The October 2007 publication features an article by D. Anderson, et al. called “Recollections of Expo 70: Visitors’ Experiences and the Retention of Vivid Long-Term Memories”.[4] The article reviews the experiences of visitors to the Osaka, Japan World Exposition in 1970 and their long-term memories that resulted from this event. This subject does relate back to the topic of interpretation of exhibits previously discussed. The author relates this story to today’s professionals giving them several things to think about in their own museums and the long-term memories these museums leave with their visitors.

Another topic which was not addressed in these 5 issues as often as one would expect was conservation and preservation of collections. In the July 2008 publication conservation is an article by M. Parsons, “Saving Film Technology in Museums Before It’s Too Late.”[5] The author supports the idea that professionals should preserve older technology within the new museums. Parsons believes that museum operators focus on the preservation of the art and culture within the museum, but they neglect the older audiovisual technology which is just as important. The article, “Preservation and Access for a Digital Future: The WebWise Conference on Stewardship in the Digital Age” by Diane Zorich in the October 2007 issue addresses a similar topic of digital preservation.[6] The opinion seems to be that digital preservation is very important, but the process to get materials digitized and the questionable lifespan of digital media makes this difficult. The article offers solutions to museums to help with the process of digitization and emphasizes the importance of this preservation technique.

The matter of exhibits is addressed by T. Freudenheim through his series “Installation Ruminations” in both the April and January 2008 issues. In these articles the author observes the setting up of recent exhibitions and the successes and failures at these installations. In the January 2008 publication, Freudenheim explains how the Museum of Modern Art in New York was able to overcome problems to have a successful installation which gives others ideas and hope for their own museum; however the situation of the Venice Biennale in Venice, Italy is a great example of “mis-installation.”[7] In the April 2008 issue, the author visits several museums to decide whether these museums should renovate their exhibits or leave them how they already are.[8] He gives examples of the different museums and what has and has not worked for their re-installations and changing exhibits.

The professional aspects of marketing are addressed in the January 2008 issue by A. Russo, et al. in “Participatory Communication with Social Media.”[9] The authors assess how museums are using digital media such as blogs and podcasts to connect with visitors in a more interactive way. The article explains that using these resources for outreach helps to build more communication and contact with visitors or potential visitors. This offers readers a new way to reach visitors and new ideas for marketing their museum to the community.

A matter that was discussed extensively in class and only mentioned through the journals was ethics. Cheryl Meszaros’ article “Modeling Ethical Thinking: Toward New Interpretive Practices in the Art Museum” in the April 2008 issue explains that art museums are the perfect place for perfecting ethical interpretation for two reasons: the objects within the collections and the similarities of art museums to other museums. The author states that, “Ethical thinking allows museums to take up their interpretive responsibility in self-consciously critical ways.”[10]

In relation to ethics and accompanying lecture, H. H Thompson addresses laws and governance of museums in the January 2008 article “International Law and its Vision of the Ideal Museum”. The story gives the history of museums with intergovernmental organizations such as the United States and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and their evolution within museum practices over the years. However, not all museums in the world have adopted practices advocated by these intergovernmental groups, and the author believes that, “until more nations make ratifying these instruments a priority and concentrate on turning the subjects of recommendations into legally binding conventions, individual institutions will continue to bear the responsibility for transforming this ideal into reality.”[11]

The fact that this journal was titled Curator: The Museum Journal is not necessarily misleading, but I did feel that there was an excess of information about education and interpretation. This is not negative, but I did expect more articles about conservation or exhibits in a professional museum journal. The articles are diverse and very beneficial for those interested in museum practices. Overall, Curator is a great resource for museum professionals or those who are studying how to run a museum.

Bibliography

Anderson, David, et al. “Competing Agendas: Young Children’s Museum Field Trips” Curator: July 2008, p. 253-73.

Anderson, David, et al. ed. Curator 50.3 (2007)

Anderson, David, et al. ed. Curator 50.4 (2007)

Anderson, David, et al. ed. Curator 51.1 (2008)

Anderson, David, et al. ed. Curator 51.2 (2008)

Anderson, David, et al. ed. Curator 51.3 (2008)

Anderson, David, et al. “Recollections of Expo 70: Visitors’ Experiences and the Retention of Vivid Long-Term Memories” Curator: October 2007.

Carter-Birken, P. ““Interpretation and the Role of the Viewer in Museums of Modern and Contemporary ArtCurator: April 2008.

Freudenheim, T. “Installation Ruminations” Curator: January 2008.

Freudenheim, T. “Installation Ruminations” Curator: April 2008.

Meszaro, Cheryl.“Modeling Ethical Thinking: Toward New Interpretive Practices in the Art Museum” Curator: April 2008, p. 157-70.

No Author. http://www.altamirapress.com/RLA/journals/Curator/Index.shtml. September 26, 2008. < http://www.altamirapress.com/RLA/journals/Curator/Index.shtml>

Parsons, M. “Saving Film Technology in Museums Before It’s Too LateCurator: July 2008.

Russo, A et al., “Participatory Communication with Social Media” Curator: January 2008.

Thompson, Hilary. “International Law and its Vision of the Ideal Museum” Curator: January 2008, p. 5-10.

Zorich, Diane. “Preservation and Access for a Digital Future: The WebWise Conference on Stewardship in the Digital Age” Curator: October 2007.


[2] David Anderson, et al., “Competing Agendas: Young Children’s Museum Field Trips” (Curator, July 2008) p. 253-73.

[4] D. Anderson, et al., “Recollections of Expo 70: Visitors’ Experiences and the Retention of Vivid Long-Term Memories” (Curator: October 2007).

[5] M. Parsons, “Saving Film Technology in Museums Before It’s Too Late” (Curator: July 2008).

[6] Diane Zorich, “Preservation and Access for a Digital Future: The WebWise Conference on Stewardship in the Digital Age” (Curator: October 2007).

[7] T. Freudenheim, “Installation Ruminations” (Curator: January 2008).

[8] T. Freudenheim, “Installation Ruminations” (Curator: April 2008).

[9] A. Russo, et al., “Participatory Communication with Social Media” (Curator: January 2008).

[10] Cheryl Meszaro, “Modeling Ethical Thinking: Toward New Interpretive Practices in the Art Museum” (Curator, April 2008) p. 157-70.

[11] Hilary Thompson, “International Law and its Vision of the Ideal Museum” (Curator, January 2008) p. 5-10.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s