Curators across the globe, from the McDermott Gallery (@McDermottGallry) in Cambodia to the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum (@SLRailwayMuseum) in West Africa, are participating in #AskaCurator Day. Launched in 2010 by museum consultant Jim Richardson and currently overseen by MuseoMixUK founder Mar Dixon, #AskaCurator Day provides instant access to curators of cultural venues and their wide breadth of knowledge. All that’s required is a Twitter account, the tag #AskaCurator, and a question on art, history, science, or whatever else pops into your noggin.
As Dixon told the Guardian, “It's a win-win for everyone involved, and a free for all in every sense” because it eliminates any nervousness someone might feel approaching a curator and gives curators a better sense of what the general public would like to know more about.
Last year's #AskaCurator Day proved highly popular, especially for Smithsonian museums. The Institution's curators fielded such questions as “How big is the Earth in comparison to the Sun?”, “Is the first light bulb still working?”, “What’s the best quality a curator can have?”, and “How do you go to the bathroom in space?”.
This year, among the experts participating are:
- At the Postal Museum (@postalmuseum), historian and curator Nancy Pope and curator of philately Daniel Piazza are ready to tackle pretty much any postal-related question you may have. Pope will be fielding questions in all areas of postal history; however, her particular interests are transportation and technology history. As for Piazza, he will serve as an excellent resource for philatelic (stamp-related) questions.
- Simon Rettig, curator of the Freer | Sackler’s (@freersackler), will be on hand to talk about the new nasta’liq exhibition.
- At the National Museum of African American History and Culture (@NMAAHC), seven curators on topics ranging from photography to music to slavery will all be standing by, ready to answer your questions.
- Curators from the American History Museum (@amhistorymuseum) are scheduled throughout the day. Check out the O Say Can You See blog for the full list, but the topics covered will include photography, digitization, country music, the museum's LGBT collections, money, baseball cards and much more.
- The National Museum of Natural History is well-represented, with five curators from Rogers Archaeology Lab (@archaeologylab) and curator Nick Pyenson of Pyenson Lab (@pyensonlab) available to answer questions pertaining to the fields of linguistics, physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and marine biology and evolution.
- Also fielding questions are curators from the National Air and Space Museum (@airandspace), and the National Museum of African Art (@nmafa).
“It’s wonderful to shine a spotlight on how museums engage with the community through technology,” says Sarah Sulick, the public affairs specialist who will be working the @smithsonian account for #AskaCurator Day. “At the Smithsonian, we like to think of every day as ‘Ask a Curator Day’ since our hundreds of social media accounts put you in touch with countless experts on topics as varied as art, history, science and culture.”