“How can you create an exhibition suitable for children if you are not one?” Co-curation #TBT #musdigi


Shhh … It’s a secret: Wallace Collection

For this #throwbackthursday post I’m re-visiting a conference I attended in 2010 at the Science Museum, London, which looked at the issue of co-curation within the context of the public history of science. Some of the presentations were subsequently published in Curator and summarised below. Have also listed a further set of blog posts that address co-curation (including notes and reflections from the 2010 conference).

Going to be digging into this topic further over the next little while so feel free to add any examples you have in the comments or tweet me @lyndakelly61.

Co-Curation Workshop publications

Boon, T. (2011). Co-Curation and the Public History of Science and Technology. Curator: The Museum Journal. 54, 4, pp. 383-387.

  • Reports on the 2010 workshop and sets the context for the next set of papers
  • “Co-curation and similar techniques gathered together under the umbrella of ‘participation’ describe a range of practices in which lay people work to develop displays and programs within museums.” (p.383)
  • Audience research as a form of co-curation – and now how do do this within the digital context
  • Visitors do engage with history in their own time and space – think watching historical documentaries, visiting historical sites, reading historical fiction [and doing family history]
  • Museum spaces have always been participatory – visitors use exhibitions according to their own interests and make sense of them drawing on their own life experiences [as we well know!]
  • “Visitors will always be ahead of us in following their knowledge, tastes and proclivities. And, importantly for us, this provides an opportunity for us to move our collections and storytelling closer to them.” (p.385)

Bryant, E. (2011). A Museum Gives Power to Children. Curator: The Museum Journal. 54, 4, pp. 389-398.

  • Reports on an exhibition, Shhh … It’s a secret!, co-curated with 12 children over one year at the Wallace Collection
  • Co-curation is a journey of discovery, and making it up as you go along!
  • Give audiences the power and they will rise to the challenge
  • Staff are also changed and get satisfaction for the co-curation process [we also found this in our work with the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools]
  • Don’t assume what children like and want from museums [hence the title of this post – a direct quote from one of the child ‘co-curators’]

Denver Community Museum

Kopke, J. (2011). Denver Community Museum. Curator: The Museum Journal. 54, 4, pp. 399-402.

  • Reports on the work of the Denver Community Museum (DCM) – a pop-up exhibition operating for around one year in Denver
  • Their experience found everyone was an amateur and a professional at the same time
  • DCM provided the platform and the opportunities
  • “Our world is based on shared information where everyone has become a contributor. The result is that audiences are expecting more than simply being told a story: they are looking to be part of it.” (p.401)
  • “Staff can use their expertise as a starting point to launch the conversation.” (p. 402)
  • “Museums must shift from being content providers to being context providers – by linking their collections to the outside world and offering ideas on how this knowledge is relevant and can be applied to visitors lives.” (p.402, emphasis added)
  • “Museum staff help create the link between collections and community, using their expertise.” (p.402)

Chitty, A. (2011). London Re-cut: Reclaiming History through the Co-curated Remixing of Film. Curator: The Museum Journal. 54, 4, pp. 413-418.

  • Reports on a digital project – London Recut – that used archival material to remix London’s film history
  • “Digital co-curation projects can develop relationships with audiences that many institutions find difficult to engage” (p.413)
  • Communities that share a passion will reach out to each other and to institutions and share archival material in new ways
  • Need to hand control [and trust] over to the user
  • “Our role as curators or technologists is to open the doors and provide them with the tools to start.” (p.418)
  • The users decide what to create and what opportunities to take

Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery

Other Co-curation References / Resources