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Collaborative Curating

Posted By Rachael Arauz, Independent curator, Boston, Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blog entry, Collaborative curating

Rachael Arauz, Independent curator, Boston


I was eager to attend the panel on Collaborative Curating, since all of my work as an independent curator involves new and changing models of collaboration with each museum that hires me. Overall the panel was rich with a variety of projects, and it was great to learn about so many versions of collaborative work in the field. However, I would second Anna Marley’s suggestion that a future panel on the same theme might be more successful with fewer projects and more collaborators speaking on a given project. It would have been nice to understand better the origins of each project and get into the nitty-gritty of the (gently explained) complications that might have arisen from the collaborations. How and why did each museum make connections with the guest curators and institutions with whom they worked? I especially liked that the panel included different versions of collaborations, including a curator-artist collaboration and a curator-faculty collaboration. Artists and academics function frequently in museums as guest curators, and their particular expertise and insight into an exhibition topic can enliven the subject matter in important ways. I would imagine, though, that the logistical work of an exhibition might also be quite complicated by a collaborator who brings subject expertise but minimal curatorial experience. How were responsibilities divided between the guest curator and the in-house curator? Some of these questions were briefly touched on, but deserved more time for discussion (probably way beyond the scope of an afternoon panel!). The role of the independent curator exists under the broader umbrella of guest curating and, similar to an artist or faculty member, we hope to bring new insights and energy to each exhibition we work on. Ideally, most independent curators also bring years of curatorial experience to a project as well as their own history of collaborative models each time a museum engages us. With some medium and smaller museums eliminating staff positions and tightening budgets, the use of guest curators with a variety of professional skills seems on the rise as a means of maintaining lively curatorial programming throughout the year. I hope collaborative curating will continue to be a topic addressed by the AAMC in both formal and informal venues. Future conversations will indeed benefit from more in-depth explorations of the origins of the collaboration, the complexities of the project, and the ways in which everyone benefits from these new relationships in the museum world.

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