Collecting and Curating…

Collect : bring / gather items together

Curate : select, organise and look after items

In this lecture (part 1), we looked at why people collect, when it can become a problem and artists whose work is centred around collecting.

Why – ways to relive past / keep past present / thrill of hunt

Becoming a problem – difficulty discarding and acknowledging collections / strong urges to keep / clutter / unable to control physical environment and relationships

The psychoanalytical approach to collecting is that unloved children seek comfort in accumulating belongings.


Tracy Emin  – My Bed – 1999

Very personal collection of items. Her bed in reality. It was placed in a very contrasting environment (Tate Britain). The bed has remained the same items for all these years, everything is starting to yellow with age. Adds to the feeling of nostalgia.

Emin, T. My Bed.1999. Web. 21 Oct 2016

Ai Wei Wei – Royal Academy – 2015

He and many volunteers collected 150 tonnes of rebar from collapsed buildings in China. These were the bars that fell and killed hundreds of lives. He made a collection of names and placed them on the wall opposite the bars. The bars were carefully placed in waves / earthquake patterns. Very emotional piece of work.

Wei Wei, A. Straight. 2010. Web. 21 Oct 2016

Susan Hiller – From the Freud Museum – 1991-6

Idea of collecting. Not actually items from the Freud museum but title gives the feeling that they are something to be treasured.  Items are displayed in a very organised fashion. They seem precious and of value. Personal links when tying the objects to a person (Freud).

Hiller, S. From the Freud Museum. 1991-6. Web. 21 Oct 2016


In the second lecture on collections, we focused more on institutions and messages of institutions. Looking at collections on a grander scale, rather than just personal collections.

Collection – a group of accumulated items of a particular kind

Institute – an establishment, they have an agenda / message / set of values to impose on their audience

Message – edited, carefully crafted

Museums and their exhibitions “are at the disposal of those who know how to interpret them”. It is a way of being exclusive. It’s only for the people who understand the jargon. It’s like going to a high-end clothing store – you behave in a certain way based on the messages that the institution gives off.

Museums and galleries have to respond to current thinking on order to stay relevant. They also have to decide what is worth curating and displaying – has to be of some interest to their audiences.

In this lecture we were given a group task to curate a set of items and place them in an appropriate venue. The objects were a mix of clothing, statues, tablets was well as being from different time periods.

We decided to start with grouping similar items together. From this we could decide where they should be placed and who would want to see them (the audience). What stood out to us, was that the items were from all different parts of the world so we decided to group them by continents. The exhibition would be displayed as a pop-up exhibit within the V&A. Our audience would be the general public, with those who have specific interests in culture and history. The title of the exhibit was “Continents and Culture”.

Our message / rationale was as follows:

“A contrast between the diversity and cultures in different continents. We want to focus on and celebrate the variety of artefacts in this exhibition, especially the division of materials used in different regions. We have stone from Europe, clay and pottery from Asia and the Middle East and more contemporary materials from America.”


Entire museum layout
Close Up : Europe
Close Up : Asia
Close Up : Middle East and Africa
Close Up : USA


I found this lecture very helpful when thinking about my own collection and how I want items to be grouped and displayed. It made me mindful : I could edit my collection so that I am only left with items I am truly inspired by and I should be wary when collecting items to make sure that they go with the themes and ideas of my box.


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