Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Research as Curatorship, Scholars as Docents

Academic journal article Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue

Research as Curatorship, Scholars as Docents

Article excerpt

In considering this year's theme of sustainability, creativity, and care, my thoughts turned to the nature and etymology of the museum. The museum is the shrine of the Muses--those inspirational goddess of the arts and sciences. The museum's contemporary aim to preserve and display allows knowledge to transcend contextual bounds. This well-intentioned purpose does not come without controversy, however, as museums extract artifacts from their natural environs and submit these objects to an existence of public display and possible misrepresentation. Consider, for example, the conflict between mother and daughter in Alice Walker's (1973) short story, "Everyday Use" in which newly woke Dee/Wangero expresses her dismay that Grandma Dee's quilts were to be relegated to her sister's matrimonial bed as opposed to hanging them on a wall to be revered. Exhibits hold appreciable power in the shaping of public understanding of objects and ideas and the public is not often privy to the interpretive process that takes place in the presentation. Hence, there are ethical considerations to be had when curators select ways to present materials that include careful choices with language, voice, and composition (Gazi, 2014). To mitigate such distortions, connoisseurs of objects and ideas can serve as docents - purveyors of the knowledge that allows for public appreciation and, ideally, a proliferation of ideas that extend beyond the preserved artifacts.

I extend this analogy to the notion that researchers are the curators of ideas and similar ethical considerations apply in the presentation of ideas. The essays that follow are an eclectic collection of experiences with scholarship that depict the various ways researchers serve as docents to the voices, stories, and data. In our first exhibit, McClean and Waters present ways in which digital technology can extend scholarship on indigenous voices as a collective, allowing shared experiences of indigenous communities to be highlighted. In juxtaposition, Cross examines how data is to be archived and presented with a concern for the individual stories shared in confidence while simultaneously negotiating the boundaries of grant work. …

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