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Archive for August, 2012

#CitizenCurators

As the London Olympics draw to a close, I want to call attention to a lovely project by Museum of London (partnering with the University of Westminster). It’s called #CitizenCurators and it aims to document the life of everyday London residents during the Olympic Games. The museum appointed 18 official citizen curators, chosen to be representative of the makeup of the city. But also, anyone who tweeted with the hashtag #CitizenCurator will have their tweets archived by the museum. An edited version of each day’s tweets are posted on Storify.

I browsed the tweets and found a mixture of interesting scenes captured on the street (like the lovely Jamaica fan above), Olympic material culture (like these Union Jack hijabs; the coordinators specifically asked citizen curators to document objects), reports on Londoners’ experiences watching events or trying to get tickets, and snarky comments or complaints from a local point of view (“Wenlock pens people. Pens. How? Why? What have we done to deserve this?”).

It’s so important that the Museum of London, as collector and preserver of the city’s history, chose to turn its Olympic attention to everyday residents. So often the city archives of such major events contain a whitewashed, top-down version of history. But this project represents a turn to a much more participatory and granulated historical record.

I’m reminded of the coda to the last chapter of Carol Kammen’s On Doing Local History. She writes about the importance of documenting your place in the present, while it is still fresh. Kammen suggests a more analog methodology, mind you, but the spirit is the same as #citizencurators. She includes a three-page list of phenomena one might want to document, and enlist other locals in documenting, about their city or town. Here are a few of my favorites: local signs of the change of seasons; routines of place: rush hours, quiet times; those out of sight: who is not seen; and what sits at the curb for the garbage collector. Expect to see more like this in the years to come.

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I’m heading to Rio de Janeiro in two weeks to participate in the International Conference on Museums of Cities, hosted by the The Historical Museum of the City of Rio and Rio’s Municipal Secretary for Culture, in partnership with ICOM Brazil and CAMOC. The conference is an opportunity to talk with colleagues from Brazil and elsewhere (Turkey, Greece, Denmark, and the UK) about the role of city museums in 21st-century cities, and also to generate some new ideas for Rio’s city museum specifically.

The organizers have put together a packed schedule of presentations and discussions, and I’m looking forward to an intense week of thinking and sharing. Since I know there are some South American folks who read this blog regularly, I want to make sure you know that it’s not too late to make your plans to attend this conference; registration is open until Friday, August 17.

My own talk is titled The Living City: Trends in Urban Curation. Rio by all accounts is definitely a living city, and I can’t wait to explore it for the first time.

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