This panel seeks to problematise, locate and define curators and curated spaces in contemporary culture and ethnographic museums in the light of an expanding notion of curation. Special attention will be paid to means in which it can harness the potential of material objects to perform and affect.
Humanity's capacity for producing an excess of material culture continues at fast pace, while the 'information age' society is also faced with managing unprecedented and accelerating data excess. The overwhelming task of selecting from this abundance has led Michael Bhaskar to suggest that 'we're all curators now' (2016: 3). The term 'curation' has become prolific in wider society, applied to an increasing range of cultural forms from festival line-ups to digital curated content. This poses the question of the meaning and role of the professional museum curator, particularly in ethnographic museums that have historically sought to collect everything from the everyday.
Collaborative curation in ethnographic museums and the conception of these spaces as 'contact zones' have increasingly rendered curators of these museums facilitators in cross-cultural conversation. Similarly, Hans Ulrich Obrist has positioned his own role in the Art World as a catalyst that 'brings different cultural spheres into contact' (2014: 24) emphasizing relational values over reliance on individual curatorial expertise and subject specialism.
We take the expanding notion of curation as a central discussion point to explore how broader conceptualisation of the curator and curated spaces can enhance understanding of our collections. In particular, we are interested in how curation can harness the potency and expectancy of photographs, objects and sound to make them 'talk' (Daston 2007: 221) with special reference to emerging digital technologies. We seek to explore how we may redefine the curator, professional practice and curated spaces to facilitate the making of anthropological knowledge and experiences.