“Ask a Curator” Makes Museum Twitter Feeds Fun Again

Jim Richardson is taking Twitter out of the marketing department and putting it in the hands of curators.



When you think of museum curators, does the image of an isolated librarian come
to mind? Someone peering into their book or painting–someone who
doesn’t have time to immerse themselves in the minute details of life
that social media makes available? Well it turns out that museum
curators are, in essence, re-branding themselves–with the help of Jim Richardson, Managing Director at the Sumo design company, who’s organized a global event, Ask a Curator, to allow the general public, students, and anyone who’s interested to simply ask a question to hundreds of museum curators on Twitter tomorrow.

How do you prevent paintings from changing colors? What’s the biggest
theft you’ve ever witnessed (or didn’t witness)?” All such questions will receive answers via Twitter. It’s a bit like Aardvark, but just for the museum and arts world. The funky event will take place under the hashtag, #askacurator.


“The inspiration is really a frustration I guess; in the museum world you have a movement towards more open and engaging museums which is often referred to as Museum 2.0 — the idea that a museum can evolve and get better by interacting and involving the public,” says Richardson, whose design firm works mostly in the arts and creative sciences.

“In too many institutions social media is seen only as a marketing tool, and people like curators don’t seem to be given the chance or want to use this kind of digital tool to engage with the public. With Ask a Curator we are, on mass, taking Twitter out of the marketing department and putting it in the hands of curators, and at the same time giving the public the chance to hear about interesting subjects from these passionate individuals,” he continues.


Richardson also ran an event called Follow a Museum back in February which, he says, “trended on Twitter as the number one subject around the world, so I am hopeful that we’ll achieve the same again and have a really high level of participation.”

“My hope is that we’ll plant a seed in both the curators and the public, and change their expectations to see this kind of digital interaction as part of how a museum or gallery interacts with the public,” says Richardson. “It would certainly be better then a bunch of bland marketing messages.”

“We do a lot of work around ways in which museums can embrace new technologies to engage with their audiences, so Ask a Curator really fits with what we do day-to-day,” he says. Each museum is responsible for telling its followers about the day, and the number of people following the participating venues ranges from a few hundred to over 100,000–which means the project could potentially reach millions of people within a few retweets.

The day to ask your heart out is tomorrow, September 1st, and the hashtag is #askacurator.

About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.