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News / September 20, 2017

What Was Revealed During Canada’s #AskACurator Day

An ancient nail clipper, a slightly less ancient video game, and a very-not-ancient arts and culture problem.
A 1915 sketch of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, by Willem Witsen that is in the collection of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The sketchbook was brought to light during #AskACurator day on September 13. Photo: Rijksmuseum via Twitter. A 1915 sketch of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, by Willem Witsen that is in the collection of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. The sketchbook was brought to light during #AskACurator day on September 13. Photo: Rijksmuseum via Twitter.

This year’s #AskACurator day—the annual social-media Q&A blitz—was not without controversy internationally.

One British Museum curator was called out for racism and an (admittedly humourous) debate erupted between a science museum and a natural history museum in the UK.

In Canada, the dialogue was quieter. But a few shortfalls, curiosities and treasures were nonetheless revealed.

On the political front, a question to the Canadian Museum of History revealed that its curators would have liked to expand more on arts and culture in its new hall—but couldn’t due to space constraints.

On a related note, the National Gallery of Canada revealed that only about two percent of its collection is on display at any given time:

In the curios section, Ontario museum professional Fraser McDonald prompted a few international museums to share Canada-related works from their collections

The responses included a New Brunswick sketchbook at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and a stuffed walrus at Poole’s Horniman Museum:

Canadian tweeter Dan McKnight asked several international and domestic museums to share Canadian-related objects in their collections.

This yielded immigration-area photos from Detroit, a medal awarded to a First Nations fighter stored in London and (strangest of all) a box of tissues that once travelled with the Queen. (That last one is at the Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.)

And no curatorial foray on social media would be complete without consideration of ancient Canadian video game technology and a Roman nail clipper.

Not to mention a lasting collections-based mystery.

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is news and special sections editor at Canadian Art. A graduate of NSCAD University and McGill University, she has also written for the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail. She welcomes tips, corrections and comments anytime at leah@canadianart.ca.