#AskACurator- your questions, answered!

Thanks to those who submitted questions to the 390th Memorial Museum for #AskACurator Day!  Mariel Watt, our outgoing Curator and Archivist, and Kate Doak-Keszler, our Director of Communications, wrote up this piece to answer your questions.

What is the job of a Curator?

The Latin word cura means “to take care.”  In the modern museum sense, a curator is charged with caring for an institution’s collections.  Even in smaller organizations such as the 390th Memorial Museum, this is a big job!  Caring for a collection involves many different tasks.  First, this means deciding on the scope of the collection- what objects tell the story the Museum is trying to tell, and which items can we actually provide long term care for.   Second, the items determined to be within the scope of the collection must then be inventoried, catalogued and stored in a way that preserves them but also makes them accessible.  Third, curators have the important job of overseeing research into the history and heritage of the objects in the collection, to provide interpretation of heritage these objects represent.

What is the difference between an archive and a library?

Glad you asked!  One thing that Libraries and Archives have in common is that they both contain collections of items such as books, photos, letters, etc- and that overall in the US they are both really underfunded.  However, their purpose is a bit different.  Below is a handy table that outlines the difference between the two.

What is bit rot?

You may be surprised to learn that over time, digital files begin to degrade.  Every time you open an image saved digitally, it is ever so slightly altered.  This is known as “bit rot” but also may be referred to as bit decay, data rot, data decay or silent corruption.  Some file formats are more stable than others. The commonly used Jpeg and Gif formats are not nearly as stable as the industry standard for preservation, the Tif file format.  In fact, the difficult part of digital preservation is maintaining data integrity!


Our thanks to Mariel, and we wish her success with her new position as Assistant Director of the Public History Lab at the University of Arizona!


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