The word “curate” has become trendy: stores “curate” their wares, people on Pinterest “curate” pictures they’ve found on the internet, and some people even claim to “curate” their outfits. Various news articles and blog posts have been written in response to what the authors contend is the misuse of the term. Some of them, like this blog post from the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Virginia, go so far as to leap to the defense of people whose job title is Curator, arguing that the overuse of “curate” obscures the fact that Curators’ responsibilities extend past simply making choices; real Curators spend years building subject matter expertise and striving to preserve the artifacts under their care. These authors seem to feel that the transformation of curating into a cultural phenomenon has distorted the public’s idea of what Curators do and cheapened the meaning of the word “curate” itself.
As someone with Curator in their job title, I have a different perspective. The very fact that so many people want to “curate” reinforces my feeling that what I do is important. It is true that some people may not understand that I am much more likely to be found on top of a ladder with a dusting cloth in hand than standing in a gallery staring at a painting, but it still feels like a compliment that they identify curating as an activity that requires knowledge and is of value to society. Working in a museum is not always as glamorous as it may seem, so it’s nice to know that other people want to do what I do, or at least what they think I do.