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Dr Flavia Loscialpo shares her thoughts on how museums, galleries and heritage sites have adapted through the current pandemic, and how the newly developed MA Curation and Visual Culture is future ready for a digital world.

22nd June 2020
Art and designApplied art

During the current Covid-19 pandemic, museums, galleries and heritage sites around the world have had to close.  Like many other sectors, they've had to try and adapt their activities to continually engage their communities and look at opportunities to attract new audiences.  Curating their collections digitally for virtual tours, talks and providing online resources for home schooling has been key to this.   

The current situation is highlighting a great potential that has already been explored within the sector. Indeed, exhibitions often include various media and interactive technologies, with displays often extending beyond the constraints of physical spaces. At the same time, museums and archives are using digital technology to allow access to their collections and remain places of social interaction. This has relevant implications in relation to the role of museums and galleries, as well as the role of the curator. 

As we can currently observe, within the museum sector there has been a drive towards open access, with digital platforms being an opportunity to contextualise the exhibits in a different way. Nowadays these ‘digital displays’ can use multimedia as a key component of the narrative, to reveal further information and allow the users to immerse themselves in the collections and archives, encouraging visitors into a dynamic relationship with the exhibits.

Anonymous Stateless Immigrant Pavillon', Venice Biennale, 2017, ph by Flavia Loscialpo

Solent’s future-ready MA Curation and Visual Culture, addresses these implications in particular within the module ‘Curating in the Digital Realm’: where students will explore the potential contribution of digital technology and innovations towards curated displays, through an emphasis on the Internet, new media, social media platforms and the possibility of virtual contexts. Students will also learn about implications in terms of access, interactivity, and the experience economy. 

Within the MA, curation is understood both as a practice, that is, what curators do, but also as a domain for the production of knowledge. Curation is in fact a way to share publicly interpretations and observations of the world. In particular, the MA’s philosophy is inspired by the position of curator, political researcher and publisher Seth Siegelaub, according to whom; “You don’t need a gallery to show ideas”. 

Within the course, curation is hence understood as agency and activity that appears in different spaces, either physical or virtual, and can produce knowledge by disclosing new understandings. In this sense, the social, political as well as technological implications of curatorial practice are the premise of the course. There is an emphasis on radical interventions, social responsibility, inclusivity, and widening participation. Preparing students for the curatorial profession means to demonstrate how curation can be an innovative and inclusive practice that enables access, subverts assumptions and generates positive change.  

Barbara Kruger, at Venice Biennale, 2017, ph by Flavia Loscialpo