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#AskACurator: Our Curators Chime In

National #AskACurator Day was Sept. 15, and it was our fourth year participating! We received a lot of inquiries, and in case you missed it, we’re compiling all of our answers here! Our exhibit developers, archivist, paleontologists, curators, and director of collections jumped in to get you answers about all things curatorial! 

Ryan Krenzke, Curator of History (and Jedi) and Ashley Ramsey Hannum, Curator of Archaeology and Anthropology, provided incredible answers to the curious public...

“Are curators competitive about collections ‘Our T-Rex is the biggest and baddest!’ or is it collegial "Great find!" 

I think it’s honestly a little bit of both! We are certainly proud of our collection and love to brag on it, but we love to share in the amazing pieces at other museums as well! -Ashley

There is a small amount of pride we take in having unique and cool artifacts, but it’s important to us as curators to build a sense of community and support with other institutions.  We love hearing about awesome artifacts at other museums because we like to know those objects are in good hands and receiving the professional care they need. -Ryan 

“Are there any hidden secrets in the museum?”

I think our collections storage is a pretty amazing secret that most people don’t know about. We have a collection of over 110,000 pieces, from dinosaur fossils, to toys and dolls, to artifacts from around the world—all housed here at the museum! - Ashley H.

“How has the concept of community co-curation and co-creation changed and influenced your work?” 

Community involvement definitely influences the way I think about object selection and helps us determine what interests people.  For example, a baseball signed by Babe Ruth is cool, but perhaps not as interesting as a ball signed by a minor sports star with local connections.  There’s a lot of power in that shared history that you can only find in the community. -Ryan

“Who would win in a fight: The Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot?” 

[If the land is adjacent to water]...Well then obviously the Loch Ness Monster. But only if threatened. She’s a peaceful creature! -Ashley

Definitely the Loch Ness Monster. I arm wrestled Bigfoot once and won. He’s not that tough. -Ryan


“How tricky is balance between handling items & conservation?”

We always walk a fine line between object use and preservation. Part of our role as a museum is to preserve the items in our collection for future generations, but it is also our mission to make the objects accessible to our visitors. We have an amazing conservator on staff who helps us decide if, how, and for how long it is safe to display more fragile objects. Thankfully, the horror stories are few and far between! -Ashley

This is one of the trickiest parts of our jobs as curators because our natural instinct is to want to share our collection with the public while also preserving the object for future generations.  Sometimes we decide not to use an object because the risk of damage is too high. -Ryan

“What Harry Potter house would you be in?”

Ravenclaw, for sure. It’s where the nerds can all live peacefully together. -Ashley

“What's one cool thing about being a curator that most people don't know?”

The non-glamorous side of the work. Like crawling around on the ground and slamming your head into floating glass shelves while installing artifacts. -Ashley

“Have you worked in other parts of the museum?”

I first started interning in interpretation. It was a great way to really dive into the front end of our exhibits, programs, and guest experiences. -Ashley

“Do you ever visit your own museum and people watch?”

I visit our museum with my kid, and of course I watch how people interact with the exhibits, their reaction to artifacts, etc. I can’t help it! -Ashley

“What does an average day look like?”  

I don’t think there is an average day! Some days it’s inventory and data entry, some days it’s installing exhibits, some days it’s traveling to scope out potential donations! That’s one of the best parts of the job! -Ashley

“What’s the most absurd object someone has tried to donate to your museum?”

I LOVE the things people want to donate. Old soda cans, rocks that look like the Virgin Mary, their bed linens. Literally. -Ashley

“What's the one thing about being a curator at The Children's Museum that makes your fellow curators super jealous?”

I love the very wide range of exhibits we get to work on. From Terra Cotta Warriors to Transformers to Native American Festival to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we get to learn so much about so many topics! -Ashley

“Who do you look to for inspiration outside of your field?”

Outside of history and museum work, I’m a science geek.  People like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye inspire me because of their dedication to education and making science more engaging for all ages. -Ryan

“What is your favorite item that The Children's Museum owns?”  

This is so hard! One of my current favorites, only because I just had it out for a researcher, is one of our mid-19th century Native American headdresses. It’s beautiful!  -Ashley

“What’s the ugliest artifact in your museum’s collection?” 

This sculpture of a festival dancer from Peru, made in the 1960s. -Ryan

Don't miss the summary blogs with #AskACurator answers from our director of collections, archivist, paleontologists, and exhibit developers!

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Categories: Collections, Exhibits, Technology
About the Author
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori is the Manager of Digital Content and Social Media. That means that she's the face behind all of the museum's social media channels! Lori loves to learn about all of the fun and surprising things that go into making The Children's Museum so extraordinary—then she helps museum staff and community members share it all right here on the blog.
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