September 19, 2013
Ask A Curator has been running on twitter for a number of years now, based on the simple enough premise, that for one day each year, you can ask curators of the museums who are signed up to it, pretty much anything you want.
Of course, not every question gets answered – for many of the more well known institutions, there will be too many and other questions may be completely inappropriate etc. Also, many of the staff answering tweets also have other work to do during their day as well.
This year, there was a definite trend (at least among the people that I was following), to ask questions about cultural property. However, as the day went on, it became few of these questions were actually getting answered.
Eventually, after being bombarded by questions about the Parthenon Sculptures, the British Museum bluntly stated:
For all questions related to the Parthenon sculptures please see this page stating the Museum’s position ow.ly/oYNy2 #AskACurator
The page that it directed you to though, answered very few of the actual questions that they were being asked. People were asking about all sorts of aspects, such as whether the museum planned to organise educational exhibitional exhibitions relating to the sculptures, to whether they would consider displaying a copy rather than the original (as is the case with the Rosetta Stone. However, everyone received the same response.
Now, I’m not asking for miracles, but it would be nice to understand whether the museums at least partially acknowledged people’s concerns, rather than just directing them to a statement written years ago, that takes no account of public opinion, or the nature of the actual question being asked.
This approach was not just taken by the British Museum. Many others seemed to ignore any queries about disputed artefacts in their collections, even when the question itself should not have been that controversial.
You can also see my attempts to get an answer on the Marbles (Storify won;t show half my tweets for some reason today, so you don’t get to see the ones to other museums about other artefacts.