Who wants to be a curator?

Many arts organization Web sites offer users the opportunity to contribute to their online programming in some way, but it's typically an artificial engagement practice. Rarely do users ever offer up anything truly artistic, and it's even rarer still for the organization to showcase the work in a meaningful way. However, the Brooklyn Museum is taking the idea of "you" as the online curator to a new level and letting Web visitors select the pieces for an upcoming exhibit in its physical space. Its upcoming photography show Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibit lets users register and adjudicate work that was accepted as part of a March 2008 open call. The submitting photographers were asked to "consider Brooklyn's transformation over the years, its past and its present, and submit a photograph that captured the 'changing face(s) of Brooklyn.'"

The Brooklym Museum\'s crowd-curated exhibit

Now that the call for submissions has closed, the Museum has launched a Web interface that walks users through the registration and evaluation process. Rather than just showing images and asking users to vote for their favorites, though, the Brooklyn Museum offers evaluation guidelines. This is a real exhibit, and the Museum wants thoughtful consideration from its curators.

The Click! curator interface presents the image, its title and a description. Clicking the "Viewing Size" functions will increase or decrease the image size for those who wish to adjust for their screen resolutions or who wish to scrutinize the photo's detail. Users can also see thumbnails of the next images to be evaluated.

When the "curator" is ready to evaluate an image, he or she needs only to adjust the evaluation slider between "Most Effective" and "Least Effective" based on two questions presented by the Museum:

  1. How well does the image illustrate or express the theme "The Changing Faces of Brooklyn"?
  2. Do you consider this an exceptional image, given the technique and aesthetics?

"Curators" have until May 23, 2008, to submit their evaluations, and the exhibit will run from June 27-August 10, 2008, at the Brooklyn Museum.

While it's true that the crowd-curated approach doesn't work for all types of exhibits, the Brooklyn Museum has chosen a medium and theme that works well with an audience evaluation process. They ask about "technique and aesthetic," but the primary question is about Brooklyn's transformation.

So I guess my questions are:

  1. Though it certainly isn't necessary to be an art expert to be qualified to evaluate the Click! submissions, should one at least be fairly familiar with Brooklyn?
  2. Is this type of non-expert evaluation - as one recent blog reader mentioned - contributing to the dumbing down of art?
  3. If enough people evaluate the work, does the group consensus validate that piece for a public show?

I'd be most interested to hear what formally educated curators have to say about the crowd-curated concept.