Scholarly research is flourishing but curators’ ability to judge an object’s quality is not


"Why were so many curators taken in? Now that almost all curators have doctorates they have developed intellectually in an environment governed by the assumption that evidence is documentary, invalid unless referenced. So while at home researching provenance, they may find it difficult to interrogate, let alone give primacy, to evidence from the object itself. ....At the same time, as conservation, education and IT became professionalised, within museums the curatorial role narrowed. The basic documentation, now digitisation, of the collections tended increasingly to be delegated to people on short-term contracts;

Living in a society in which digital communication and advertising come up with endless tricks for attracting visual attention, tricks that we must learn in self-defence to screen out and ignore, inhabiting a world more used to knowing about things than knowing them directly and for themselves, relying more on the internet for knowledge than on personal experience, it is unsurprising that sustained and critical looking—learning from direct contact with tactile and visual evidence—is hard, even suspect. One price we pay, if by no means the greatest, is the loss of that direct intuitive response to the object, based on experience, that used to delight and inform the curator."



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