In line, Online: Curator buy-in starting from the ground up

Eric Espig, Qatar , Alyssa McLeod, Canada

Published paper: In line, Online: Curator Buy-in Starting From The Ground Up

How do museum Web content developers persuade curatorial staff to create and publish their own dynamic content online? Although on-site visitors to the museum interact with curators through the information provided in exhibitions and public programs, there has as of yet been little effort to extend that one-way interaction between curator and visitor to embrace the more conversational form of communication common to the Web. Most exchanges between curators and the public on the Internet are highly mediated by other museum staff responsible for Web content or learning. Michael Ames (2005) of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia calls this act of anonymizing of the curatorial voice the “Wizard of Oz technique,” a communication style that implies the curator is a disembodied figure of authority with no front-facing public presence (p. 48). Several museums have attempted to encourage their curators to develop online content, mainly in the form of blogs, but as of yet there has been no systematic effort to develop a curator-specific platform to facilitate curatorial involvement online.

During the conceptual phase of a complete rebuild of their outdated website (launch date April 2013), staff members of the Communications Department at the Royal BC Museum decided to be the first to address this issue of curatorial anonymity head-on by democratizing content creation across the infrastructure of the museum. Specifically, Eric Espig, a Web specialist at the museum, and Alyssa McLeod, an intern and graduate student hired as a Web developer for the Web redevelopment project, dedicated a section of the new WordPress-powered website to curator content creation, a section made up of individual staff “profile pages” to allow curators and other interested museum staff members to showcase their research interests, work processes, museum-related hobbies, and unique personalities. These profiles highlight the work of the Royal BC Museum’s curatorial staff