Accepted Paper:

Glazed expressions: an anthropological reflection on curation via glass screens in museum spaces  
Katherine Clough (Newcastle University / V&A)

Paper short abstract:

This paper reflects anthropologically on the role of glass screens in curated spaces, addressing shifts and contingencies in curatorial power, from glazed display cases housing objects to the 'black mirror' surfaces of digital devices, via ideas of accessibility, visibility, and tangible engagement.

Paper long abstract:

This paper draws attention to the shifting roles and expressions of the curator in museum spaces by focusing on how glass screens mediate relationships with museum objects. The types of glass screens found in museum spaces are surveyed with the different surface experiences they can offer, while also seeking to further understand the depths of perception achieved by looking through different types of screen.

Case studies of protective, glazed display cases and picture frames (that became commonplace in museums in the Twentieth Century) are compared with the 'black mirror' of digital devices that are increasingly infiltrating into contemporary museum spaces, to explore shifts and contingencies in the curatorial powers of curators and museums visitors.

From touch-screen interactives to using wifi-connected personal smart phones, visitors are now encouraged to tangibly engage with museum collections via glass surfaces. The use of digital screens to navigate online resources has not only expanded the notion of curation for museum professionals, but also been key to the wider, colloquial expansion of the term 'curation' especially in relation to digital content. Overall, the glass screen is positioned as a mediating site where the curatorial is performed (drawing on ideas expressed in Maria Lind's 2012 Performing the Curatorial: Within and Beyond Art), and particular attention is also paid to the role of the digital image (drawing on Elizabeth Edwards and Sigrid Lien's 2015 Uncertain Images: Museums and the Work of Photographs and Martin Lister's 2013 The Photographic Image in Digital Culture).

Panel P064
Redefining the curator, curatorial practice, and curated spaces in anthropology