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07 January 2010



God, I'd love to take this class! If you were teaching nearby, I think I would. It sounds great. I've always loved museums -- actually curated a small, funky museum of natural history with my brothers in an old shed when we were kids.

Lately I have fallen into the fashion of using the verb "curate" to describe my editing/publishing activity at websites like qarrtsiluni and MovingPoems.com. Online collections do feel more like museums than magazines sometimes.


Oh, Larry! I'm heartbroken that I can't take this class. It sounds wondrously rich and inviting - especially for one who loves learning about subjects beyond the four English walls as much as I do (If I won the lottery, I'd become a lifelong student...minus the math classes).

Are you printing a course packet? Or will you have a list of readings for students to find on their own? Either way, let me know. I would love to purchase a packet, or, to have a copy of the reading list!


Dave and Emily, thanks for your notes.

Dave, your mention of curating your own small museum as a child makes me think both of my sense of library creation when I began to acquire a few books as a child and my ongoing collection of stones, wood, and art for my house.

I've noticed your use of curate at via negativa and like the sense it creates. What you do at a site like qarrtsiluni seems like curation to me. Curation appeals to me as a way to describe an approach to life.

Emily--I'll send you the syllabus. Most of the readings will be posted on the WSU Angel site (maybe there is a way to add you as an auditor).

Your mention of winning the lottery brings home the point that so much related to collections and museum-building is about wealth. Wealth that most of us as individuals lack for building our own collections (whether objects or classes) is essential to a museum. Yet, once a museum (most museum?) is established it becomes open in a way that democratizes material and knowledge by creating at least a limited kind of access. (. . . ah, more thoughts for the course)


Your comment about wealth reminds me of the debate I often have with myself when watching the show "Pawn Stars." Several people have come to the pawn shop with priceless relics - guns among three or four left in the world, playbills, currency printed by Benjamin Franklin himself, etc.

Once their possessions are appraised by an expert in the field, they always want to sell the possessions for the highest price. And while I realize that the owner has no real obligation to sell to a museum, I often wonder how many of those who choose to sell to private collectors (who often have much more expendable income than museums) stop to think about how much MORE the object is worth - historically and socially - to the public, to people who are curious, to children, to those who may have absolutely zero knowledge about an artifact.

The man who owns the pawn shop often tells the seller that an object is only worth as much as the collector is willing to pay. This may be true, but how interesting that we immediately jump to numbers when describing the worth of something that can no longer be purchased.


Emily--I've never heard of "Pawn Stars," but your comment shows the way that reality TV cuts quickly to our utterly base desires. So much good intellectual/cultural criticism needs to be written about reality TV.

Debbie Lee

A few books I scouted out for your this weekend at museums:

Art and Artifact: The Museum as Medium, James Putnam

On Curating: Interviews with Ten International Curators, Carolee Thea

On Display, Maurice Scheltens


Debbie-thanks very much. I wish I had especially the book on curators in hand. The syllabus lacks a good reading on curators, although I have one from 'Art Journal' and the chapter on curators from Thomas Hoving's 'Making the Mummies Dance' (which is rather terribly outrageous).

I look forward to giving the books a look.

Hope you have time to curate a cup of tea with me soon.

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