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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Brandy S. Culp, Curator, Historic Charleston Foundation, Wednesday, June 8, 2011


After attending the panel discussion "Collaborative Curating,” I have expanded my definitions of "creative” and "collaborative” in the museum context. Structured in a narrative based format, the panelists shared their collaborative projects ranging from a city-wide print mania celebration in Philadelphia to a hands-on project between a curator and a neuroscientist in hopes of exploring the sensory experience of handling objects. Don’t worry no one will be handing the real thing in the exhibition. Most interestingly, the projects discussed by the panelists were so innovative that had you walked blindly into the auditorium, you could have easily thought you were attending instead the panel entitled "Looking forward Ten Years: What is the Museum of 2021.” Shelley Langdale, Adriana Proser, Sarah Schroth, Joaneath Spicer, and Cynthia Burlington recounted a diversity of endeavors that shared a common theme—leverage relationships and partnerships in order to creatively engage and educate the visitor in innovative ways.

Some projects, such as Shelley Langdale’s Philagrafika 2010 involving countless Philadelphia institutions, were certainly beyond the scope of most small institutions, especially those with staff limitations. So as a curator who is also the collections manager, exhibition designer, preparator, registrar, and sometimes honorary member of other departments at HCF, I immediately recognized that these projects appeared beyond the scope of my institution. I even found myself asking myself how are these projects relevant to me, and then I had the "Aha moment.” That was not the point! I was being too self-focused and had to step back and ask instead--what was the central thread present in each of the talks. It all boiled down to the power of collective action and where that can take cultural institutions. I was certainly inspired, and although I may not have the opportunity to team up with a neuroscientist in the near future, I completely understand the need for stepping outside of our curatorial bubble and expanding what collaboration means. Partnership is clearly the most effective method of remaining relevant, leveraging increasingly diminished resources, and engaging a broader audience. So the type of "Collaborative Curating” espoused in this panel is indeed "looking forward ten years.”


Brandy S. Culp


Historic Charleston Foundation

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