I love that question. Even my beloved mother, who offered unwavering support through graduate school couldn’t always quite describe what I do. In fact it became a form of entertainment as I listened to her try.
Depending on her mood, the explanation would range from “she does something with museums” to “something with textiles”. Fortunately, she has it down now. But in her defense, so much of what is involved in a curatorial position goes on behind the scenes; it is easy to understand why one might not exactly know.
Here’s a glimpse behind the curtain:
Data Clean-up: Every department is different and therefore what might be deemed as daily activity may also vary. One of the tasks I’ve taken on is updating our internal database system, Emu.
We house roughly 7,000 objects in the Textile and Fashion Arts collection and as you might guess, it is a long, but rewarding process to update all of the records. To keep us organized, Niloo Paydar, Curator of Textiles and Fashion Arts keeps about 50 or so binders in her office divided into categories based on different things such as techniques, cultures or artists.
Each time I dive into the binders, I embark on a hunt for information, kind of like a detective. Every piece in our collection is represented by a record, containing annotations and references, many of which were made at the time of acquisition or amended as the result of a visiting scholar. These are my clues.
My course of action ranges from combing obituaries for donor information, referencing exhibition catalogues, researching publications on artists or movements, to investigating specific terms such as aralac which, by the way, is a term for a synthetic fiber made from the milk protein casein.
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