Everything you always wanted to know about curating, but were afraid to ask

Looking for something to do on the Trails of History this weekend? Be sure to check out the September program listings; there have been some updates since they were posted a couple of weeks ago.

Confused? Unclear? Curious? #AskACurator
For the past several years (since, I think, 2010), museums worldwide have been participating in Ask A Curator Day, an initiative using social media to connect museum staff with the public. This year, on Wednesday, September 17, PHMC will take part for the first time. I don't have all the details yet regarding which curators are going to be in the mix, but I hope you'll check back here next week for more info. The primary source of information will be the Pennsylvania Trails of History page on Facebook and @PHMC on Twitter. On the day, you can submit questions via Twitter using the hashtag #AskACurator.

So, not sure where to start? Don't be scared. Curators are people, just like you and me. Well almost. Except for the white gloves. And the need to label everything (literally, not metaphorically). And the way they gasp when you innocently set down a lid-less cup of coffee next to an 18th-century textile. (I just made up that last one, I swear!) Seriously, some of my best friends colleagues are curators. Bazinga!

All kidding aside, some very helpful curators have provided tips for playing along. Thanks to BHSM's Lauren Jaeger for links to the National Museum of American History's "O Say Can You See" blog posts for Ask A Curator Day 2012 and Ask a Curator Day 2013. I've selected a few highlights (text not in quotation marks is paraphrased or added to make them more PHMC-specific).
  • "Some questions can’t be answered in 140 characters, the limit Twitter puts on tweets." Depending on how things go with this first year's effort, we'll try to use these as a springboard for future blog posts or other communications.
  • "Questions about what it’s like to work in a museum, how curators got where they are today, and what a typical work day is like are most welcome. Our curators appreciate the opportunity to reflect on their work and increase awareness about the jobs they do."
  • "Asking a question out of the blue can be intimidating. 'I'm interested in ___. Can you tell me more about it?' is a classic and will be sure to get our curators talking."
My plan is to update this information early next week with more details on the participating curators, their areas of expertise/interest, and any additional instructions for how to join in. In the meantime, you can think about what you'd like to know about PHMC's collections and its curatorial staff. However you spend the coming weekend, I hope you have a great time!


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