Ask a museum professional

As you may have read in my post about the GlassApp from CMOG, this year I participated in #AskACurator Day. This past week, Twitter also saw #AskAnArchivist Day. I wanted to know the history behind these days, how many years they had been around, and what the public on Twitter thought of them so I did a bit of searching.

Twitter: @AskACurator

I found this 2014 article on Wired that notes that Ask A Curator Day started in 2010 on Twitter. The article led me to the blog of the event coordinator, Mar Dixon (Twitter: @MarDixon). Looking in the Ask A Curator tag on her blog, I found posts from her each year around the time of the event encouraging museums to sign up and the public to participate and statistics and results of the event afterward. This post from September 2012 lets Claire Séguret, deputy manager of the French National Museum of Middle Ages, explain three reasons why museums benefit from participating in the event. She discusses how the event can help a museum’s presence on social media, engage staff members, and give the museum feedback on what their audience’s interests are.

I had trouble finding the amount of museums and countries that participated in 2010, but I do know that the event has only grown based on the blog posts and articles I read trying to find this information.  According to Mar Dixon’s blog post, the event had 721 museums from 43 countries participate in 2014. Her post this year states that the event drew in 1344 museums from 53 countries. The increasing popularity of the event comes as no surprise as direct interaction between the behind the scenes museum professionals and the audience can be very revealing and beneficial for the museum.

Twitter: @AskArchivists

According to the Ask Archivists blog, the first Ask Archivists Day was in 2011, one year after the first Ask A Curator Day. However, this Storify from 2014 was the first Ask An Archivist Day, sponsored by the Society of American Archivists. I had trouble finding any concrete numbers of how many archivists and countries participated in the event each year, but it seems to have followed the same pattern as Ask A Curator Day, with more participation each year, especially as archives become more and more digitized.

I found that Ask A Curator Day had largely more involvement than Ask An Archivist, which led me to question the reasoning behind this. Does the public care more about curators than archivists? This could be true as it is one of the more well known positions within a museum, but I also saw a fairly large amount of tweets on Ask A Curator Day from people not within the sector that questioned what a curator even is/does. Was there enough promotion for Ask An Archivist Day? I know a fair amount of people who participated in Ask A Curator Day didn’t even know about Ask An Archivist Day. Despite the tips for marketing and promotion that Archives Aware provides for participants in this post, I had no idea that the event existed until I saw a tweet from CMOG saying that they would be participating a few days before the event.

I’m excited to see how these events evolve and grow in the future. Will there be more days allowing the public to question other museum professionals like registrars? As someone interested in becoming either a collections manager or registrar, I would love to see an event like this. I’m not sure that the profession has enough recognition in the public yet to support a successful event like this, but hosting one within the near future could also give the profession the recognition it lacks. Until it happens, I’ll continue to participate in events like Ask A Curator or Ask An Archivist and I hope that my Twitter followers do as well.

If you want to read more about these events with a bit of a different focus, read this post by my classmate, Rachel McBrayer.


3 thoughts on “Ask a museum professional

  1. Good questions to ask, Hannah. I wonder how much the influence of a single motivated community manager/organiser like Mar helps drive an event like this to grow? And do you think that #AskARegistrar would have the same impact as #AskACurator, knowing that lots of people don’t know the difference between the two? I’d love to hear more of your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely think that the organizer has a huge influence on the event’s success and evolution. From what I’ve read on Mar’s blog and Twitter, she is the driving force behind the event and allows participating museums a chance to use her blog to explain their motivations in participating and the benefits they’ve seen from it. As for #AskARegistrar, I don’t think it would have the same impact to begin with, but I believe it could help spread awareness of the distinction between registrars and curators. I did see a large amount of questions during #AskACurator that asked about the storage and preservation of objects and I think there are a good amount of people that would be interested in asking how objects get to be in a museum and what happens to them when the museum no longer needs/wants them.


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