Ask a Curator like a Pirate

September 24, 2012


Last week Twitter saw the much anticipated second instalment of Ask a Curator, which first took place in 2010. If you’re unfamiliar with Ask a Curator, it was basically a world wide question and answer sessions with curators from around 600 museums across the globe (you can read a more detailed description of the event in my previous post). There has been some criticism on the low uptake e.g. among museums in Germany, and the fact that the event could have been better advertised, but while this may be true, according to Mar Dixon’s summary of the day there were close to 13K #askacurator tweets sent between 8am and 11:30pm UK time, with the hashtag trended in several countries across the world. So, yes, maybe we could have done even better, but I think that’s a pretty impressive result.

So how was it taking part? I got to experience the day from both sides, as a museum enthusiast with lots of questions to ask, and as a museum on the receiving end of the questions. In the morning, on my way to work, I dove in to the tail end of #askacurator in Australia, who were just winding down. It also happened to be Talk like a Pirate Day, and after some humorous exchanges involving museums and pirates, I felt really hyped up and ready to go.

At work, we had six curators from four of our museums (we’re a conglomerate of 19 museums and 4 institutes) taking part throughout the day. My job was to coordinate them – collecting questions, passing them to the relevant curator, posting the replies – so I only got the chance to ask all of two questions myself during the day, both to German museums. I’d kind of been looking forward to asking some of my favourite Scottish museums questions, on the other hand I know they’d answer them any day of the year any way ;-)

I got so caught up in Ask a Curator that I left work waaay too late and had to sprint across Berlin to pick up #MuseumBaby from nursery in time. I got there with 5 minutes to spare! And then it meant ignoring Twitter and all the exciting things that were going on until the wee man was in bed. But once he had drifted off in to the land of nod, not even the evening chores could stop me.

Europe may have gone to bed, but Ask a Curator was just peaking in the US, so I browsed the #askacurator hashtag to see who was still around, and was super excited to discover my two most favourite museums in DC in the thick of things: the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, and the Building Museum. I also aimed some questions at a couple of other US museums, including ones I’d only discovered that night.

In total, I asked 20 questions of 10 different museums, plus an archivist and one open question. 7 of the museums were in the US, 2 in Germany and 1 in Australia. All but 2 of my questions got answered. I’m still waiting to find out what happens to a painting in a modern art museum when it becomes too old to be considered as modern art ;-)

A big thank you to everyone who helped to make Ask a Curator such a success – to everyone who asked questions, and to the curators and museums who answered, and to Sumo UK for organising the whole thing. Special thanks to the museums who were such a good sport in answering my silly questions about pirates and hypothetical fires, in my never ending quest to show what great fun museums can be.


The graphic at the top of the blog post visualises the 50 most frequent words in my questions and the answers (created with


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  1. Why not “Ask-a-Curator” today?! | Museum Diary - September 18, 2013

    […] If you have a Twitter account (btw, you can find me there under @jennifuchs), you can ask any participating museum a question – just don’t forget to add the hashtag #askacurator. Or you can browse the hashtag to see what others are asking. Since it’s an International event, it will be going on all day. Last year, I was still sitting in bed tweeting along from Germany, when it was late afternoon in the USA and the museums there were still busy answering questions. If it’s your first Ask-a-Curator and you want to know a bit more about what it’s like, check out my summary from last year. […]

  2. Only 2 more days until Ask-a-Curator! | Museum Diary - September 15, 2014

    […] Ask a Curator like a Pirate (my summary from 2012) […]

  3. Are you ready for Ask a Curator 2015? | Museum Diary - September 15, 2015

    […] Ask a Curator like a Pirate (my summary from 2012) […]

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