The Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language 1994
edition gives the following definition for curator:
1. the person in charge of a museum, art collection, etc.
2. a manager; overseer; superintendent.
3. a guardian of a minor, lunatic, or other incompetent, especially with regard to his property
When I first read this definition, my eyes focussed on the "lunatic", and skipped over the words "guardian of...". I laughed, because there are times when I feel like I must be a lunatic or at least crazy to have taken on the massive project/job of editing the Ryerson Fashion Resource Collection
, while also completing my graduate studies.
I am the "person in charge" of the collection, but this does not convey the essence of what curation means from a contemporary perspective. Nor does it convey the specific challenges of curating fashion.
To explore what it means to curate a fashion exhibition, I turned to a Fashion Theory
article written in 2008 by curator Maria Luisa Frisa (who I met briefly in Milan at Fashion Tales 2012
). In The Curator's Risk
, Maria Luisa Frisa explores the idea that "fashion curating is the exercise of a critical gaze, which recognizes the multiple traces, symptoms and fragments that are around us
" and identifies risks "as implicit to the working method of the curator" (171). The article is written in a reflective tone, and Frisa considers curation in general to be about "design, layout, imagining, and constructing" (172). She suggests that fashion curation allows one to "offer new points of observation" while cautioning that it is necessary to understand "your own insights and being willing enough to take a gamble on them" (172).