Reflections on Ask A Curator Day: Seiyun Museum, GEM, CSMVS and Iziko Museums
Written by Jessica Juckes, International Training Programme Assistant
On Tuesday this week, I blogged about #AskACurator day, in anticipation of the annual social media event which took place on Wednesday (12 September).
CSMVS, Mumbai and Iziko Museums of South Africa – institutions within the ITP network – were already signed up to participate on Twitter and, following the blog post, ITP fellows Saeed Bayashoot (ITP 2016), Seiyun Museum, Yemen and Heba Khairy (ITP 2017), Grand Egyptian Museum, also put themselves on the list to take part!
I asked Saeed and Heba for their thoughts, following their participation in this initiative:
It is the first time for me and my museum taking part as a museum from the Middle East. Our museum has been closed for a long time, so we want to engage with audiences through Twitter, as we can reach anyone in the world. The idea behind our participation was to attract local and global audiences and show them the risks museums face in times of war and unrest, and how to safeguard museums and collections.
Most people asked us why the museum is closed. It is natural for audiences to ask a question like that, so we were able to give them more understanding of the security of museums in times of conflict.
We had an increase in followers from participating in #AskACurator, from tweets and retweets.
Thank you for involving me in this nice experience!
I enjoyed my experience with #AskACurator and I came to recognise many thoughts and queries which go around in people’s minds about curators and their work inside museums. I enjoyed answering the questions about how we deal with our collection and how we feel about it.
Some questions can be difficult to answer: one person asked about how we feel about our collections which are displayed and owned by other organisations, out of Egypt. I always find this question difficult to answer through Twitter because its a different feeling from one person to another, and involves a lot of different issues.
I would like to participate again next year, as I really gained some good feelings and information about how people feel about Egyptian collections.
Below are a few highlights from the conversations that CSMVS, Iziko Museums of South Africa and the British Museum had on Wednesday with the public and other museum professionals:
CSMVS had several of its curators, including ITP fellow Bilwa Kulkarni (ITP 2015), posting from their individual accounts, as well as the institution’s official account. This meant the conversations could be more rapid and reactive, and employ multiple voices. When it was mentioned that Twitter followers might like to hear from the young co-curators of an upcoming exhibition, Bilwa got in touch with them immediately and posted their answers to the questions given!
Iziko Museums of South Africa had two curators answering questions, and I liked how they made their work accessible and exciting for the general public (see the description of the Endothiodon above). They also created and posted for the occasion two videos on their brand-new Youtube channel giving viewers some background background on two of their other curators, which can be watched here and here.
I liked the way the two British Museum curators who participated (Eleanor Hyun, Curator: Korean Collections and Sue Brunning, Curator: Early Medieval European Collections) gave very detailed responses to each of the questions asked, backed up with imagery. They posted their responses over several tweets, each as replies to the first, so that they linked up and could be easily read as a chain.
And I myself also enjoyed the day and took the opportunity to start a dialogue with curators at an institution close to my heart. This had positive and unexpected results: they shared some useful links and resources with me, and one curator even said she would look into changing the text on a particular artwork label that has always bothered me!
With so many museums in Western Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia participating, it was great to see some of the International Training Programme’s colleagues across the globe using this platform to interact with new publics and museum professionals worldwide. I hope we will see even more global dialogue on #AskACurator day next year!