Recognising the citizen curator

Rebecca O’Neill, University of Hull

As more projects aim to disseminate information and digital objects online, the impetus for both staff and the public to curate objects within personal and collective narratives is quite strong. This paper look to recognise the citizen curator, a motivated individual who spends time engaging with projects such as Wikipedia or BBC Your Paintings or initiates their own project(s), marking a turning point in the overall understanding of what it means to curate and most importantly who curates. The ability to identify these citizen curators is a direct consequence of the social web as their activities have become increasingly visible as the capacity to share, organise, aggregate and distribute information on line has increased. They exist within a spectrum of curation that incorporates seemingly ‘traditional’ forms in museums and galleries to more challenging methods of computer driven or crowd sourced curation.

The acknowledgement, understanding and incorporation such citizen curators into institutional curatorial practice opens up new and exciting areas of engagement and participation for the heritage industry. It brings a novel set of tools to the debate surrounding the involvement of larger communities in the mission and direction of a museum or gallery. As more organisations throw open their collections and allow them to be ‘set free’ on the wider web through initiatives like The Mechanical Curator from the British Library, how these digital objects are understood, collated, aggregated and ultimately curated by the wider public could be a space for collaboration and participation on an unprecedented scale. The challenge now is to place the citizen curator within an enlarged understanding of curation to further not only online or digital curation but curatorial practice as a whole.

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