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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Do you use ‘Curate’ when ‘Organise’ will do? Well you shouldn’t…

By Nick J Booth, on 31 October 2012

Inspired by my colleague Mark’s excellent blog ‘How to tell an archaeologist from a palaeontologist’ (read it here) I thought I’d dedicate my blog to my own particular bug bear: The use of the word ‘curate’ and title ‘curator’.

I recently went to an interesting music and light show at a theatre in Hackney, which involved 3 different acts playing over an evening. The organisation that put it on describes itself as a ‘cultural organisation that curates, produces and disseminates digital culture’. There were lots of people there and the evening seemed to go well. I’d say it was very well organised. So why did that organisation decide to call it ‘curated’ instead of ‘organised’ or ‘put on’ or any other word?

A sign reading 'Do not disturb, Curating in Progress'

The modern day equivalent of ‘under construction’?

I am going to put it out there early – I think organisations and people do it as a form of self-aggrandisement. I think people chose to use the words ‘curate’ and ‘curator’ because it sounds more high-brow, to some people, than organiser or promoter. Perhaps they think it makes that person sound more intelligent, or gives a deeper meaning to what they do.