When Two Tribes Go To War. Art & Science ‘curatorship’
By Mark Carnall, on 30 April 2014
The University of Cambridge museums and collections are currently running a project Curating Cambridge: our city, our stories, our stuff. Part of that project is looking at the art & science of curation asking curators what they think is meant by curation. My colleague Nick Booth has previously written about the problems with the word curator now becoming almost meaningless through overuse. I was inspired to write about the differences between “Art and Science” curation for the Art & Science of Curation website.
When two tribes go to war, they communicate with each other, even if it is only through war cries and violence. However, when it comes to the two tribes of art and science curators, they occupy completely different niches. Even though both sets of professionals have a lot in common- they work in museums (many of which are public), they will have had training in general and fundamental principles of museums and they all work in the museum sector. They are both called ‘curators’ (or keepers or collections managers and a hundred other variants that nobody could tell what the difference is). However, that’s about as far as it goes. They have different professional bodies, attend different conferences, publish in different journals, participate in different subject specialist networks, go to different exhibitions, read different magazines, blogs and sections in the newspaper.
Mark Carnall is the Curator of the Grant Museum of Zoology