I have written here about the question I asked on ask a curator day. It was about this piece of art
I thought mine was a very obvious question. So I asked the room stewart/interpreter/guide/attendant whether lots of people asked that. She masked her surprise well, I thought, and told me no one had ever asked that. So I AM the odd one out.
“I’ll tell you what they do ask though’ she teased. “Yes?” I replied, ever eager for new insights into the minds of visitors to cultural attractions …
‘They want to know how many sticks there are,”she said.
EH??? WHAT??? WOW! Now that really surprised me. Of all the questions, in all the dimensions, why that? Why not – “How do you clean it?” or ‘where did he get the wood from” or even the old favourite “You call that art? my five year old could do better …” ?
Art, and the way people respond to it is really full of surprises.
I love the questions people ask which is why I think Ask a Curator Day is so brilliant. The good people behind this month’s Museums Journal picked what they called ‘some of the best questions from #askacuratorday’. I like them too:
Which Museum or gallery would you most want to be locked in overnight?
(That is one fantastic question. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History Pittsburgh gets my vote. Being in the dinosaur hall after hours was definitely the highlight of my curatorial career.)
When curating an exhibition do you have an image of the “ideal” visitor in mind?
(Good, tricksie one)
Curators, do you have good tactile exhibits for babies and toddlers? What’s your best example? if not why not?
(Kelham Island Industrial Museum, Sheffield (15 years ago) was a great toddler museum).
How much of a negative impact does lack of funds have on your museum?
( I do hope no punches were pulled in answering that!)
What is your best kept secret about your collection?
(Ha ha – you can’t trick a curator that easily).
I would so love to see the whole list of questions. Maybe asking our visitors for questions would be more revealing than asking them for answers. It could show us more of their world and their approach to what we do. One of the best guided tours I ever went on was based entirely on that principle.