Confessions of a Curator

As a person who is reluctant to engage in much technology, this COVID world of streaming everything has kick started my anxiety sky high. While I understand our need for digital connections, my need for real world experiences weighs heavily as I struggle with the balance. To Zoom or Not To Zoom is the question these days.

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I am a history nerd to the max, I like to read a lot, I like to roam other museums, antique stores, used bookstores, and I enjoy CBC radio over television. Further to this, I cannot even tell you what is “binge worthy” and 6 months ago if you had asked me to Zoom anywhere, I would have assumed you wanted me to walk faster or join a fitness class!

My whole life is about unplugging and disconnecting.  If it requires me avoiding large gatherings, working by myself or in small teams, and burying my nose in a book, I am your gal.  So honestly, COVID and I are kind of made for each other.  Don’t get me wrong, I do engage, I have meaningful conversations, I like to laugh, and enjoy an afternoon coffee with friends…but I am BIG on the retreat back to solitude.

COVID has quieted our halls but the reality is that museums need people. We exist for people to come in and gaze, wonder, learn, and imagine. We are the place that wants to inspire and remind you of all the special things that the world around you values.  What is a museum curator to do when people stop coming? I have been thrown into a world where my very job is now reliant on me learning how to plug in and connect – how do I do this?  If the masses cannot come out to enjoy the collection on site, then I have to bring the collection to the masses.  This means things like Facebook and Instagram Lives, YouTube, and Zoom everything….cue my hives and nervous tick now!

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In the past 6 months, we have had to modify museum visitation- this includes how you experience exhibits, the Reading Room, and programs. We are now appointment based, we have removed contact points in the exhibits, we wear masks, and we have worked through about a thousand Zoom calls to figure this out.  Do you have any idea what planning an entire exhibit through Zoom is like? 

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In the meantime, I have been busy working behind the scenes. The quiet has given me time to clean up parts of the collection – we finished a significant conservation project with our textile collection this summer. We inventoried, wrapped, and photographed most of our quilt collection (105 items) and uploaded these images to our online database which you can check out here.

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A rather overwhelming project we have started is the inventory of the furniture collection.  The cleaning and sorting of 100s of these large objects is daunting.  Confirming associated provenance, applying missing accession numbers, updating the database and organizing the storage room is a big job. Funding from Young Canada Works has allowed me to hire a graduate intern to help me carry this heavy load. This project will take several months to complete. 

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As you can see, I am trying to balance the pull between online and unplugged. It seems like a fine line between my sanity and insanity. I go home fatigued and worried that the museum will somehow become irrelevant, which I guess just pushes me harder to get the collection out there in different ways. I hope this virus soon passes, I miss the noise and bustle of the museum. This time of year is always the  busiest with hundreds of school kids visiting us…there is a melancholy to the museum halls right now.  

WE ARE OPEN, we miss you, and book your visit today we have a couple new exhibits waiting for you.  Be sure to check us ZOOMing along with our digital holiday programs coming very soon!

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