Curators and curating are at the heart of what makes us museums, yet the word curator is freely used in many contexts and with many meanings.  As a cross-disciplinary museum consortium, we find that across the University of Cambridge Museums our common recognition of the overriding importance of curation is not necessarily matched by a shared understanding of the role and responsibilities of a curator.   Is a curator a source of specialist expertise, a custodian, a content manager, a cultural programmer, a digital archivist, an editor?  All these, or none of them?  What does the curator of a fossil collection have in common with a contemporary art curator, or the curator of a music festival?   Where does community curation, co-curation, digital curation and crowd curation fit? 

Through this project we will investigate and develop our ideas around the definition of curation and the role of the curator, identifying common ground and exploring areas of difference.  Through eliciting contributions from across the University of Cambridge Museums, from researchers across the arts and sciences, and from cultural partners and other writers and thinkers from within and outside the museums and cultural sector, we will build a body of work which will capture and explore the spectrum of thinking on this subject.

This project is part of Curating Cambridge: our city, our stories, our stuff, which takes place from 20 October to 23 November, 2014. 


Explore the art and science of curation through the eyes of contributors from across the University of Cambridge Museums and beyond. We very much welcome contributions, whatever your understanding and experience of curation; please contact the project lead Liz Hide.

A Curator's Progress - Tim Knox, Director, Fitzwilliam Museum

A 'Living' Collection - Tim Upson, Curator and Deputy Director, Cambridge University Botanic Garden

A Reminiscence: the Challenges and Rewards of Curatorial Expertise - Stella Panayotova, Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum

Coming in from the cold: curation at The Polar Museum - Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections, The Polar Museum

Curating and Kettle's Yard - Andrew Nairne, Director, Kettle's Yard

Curation in a Cast Gallery - Robin Osborne, Director, Museum of Classical Archaeology

‘How can anyone want such things?’: Curation and the Meaning of Objects at The Polar Museum - Joseph Minden, Development Assistant, The Polar Museum

Renewing a Museum: Wonders of the Animal Kingdom - Paul Brakefield, Director, Museum of Zoology

The art and science of being a young museum professional - Katy Barrett, Curator of Art, pre-1800, Royal Museums Greenwich

What curation means on the internet - Danny Birchall, Digital Manager, Wellcome Collection

What is a Curator? - Lucilla Burn, Keeper of Antiquities, Fitzwilliam Museum

What is Curating? - Maja Michaliszyn, MA Museum Studies student

When Two Tribes Go To War. Art & Science ‘curatorship’ - Mark Carnall, Curator, Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy UCL