While not strictly related to contemporary or visual art in Asia, we thought this social media experiment undertaken by Powerhouse Museum in Sydney was worth highlighting. The museum took part in Ask a Curator Day, a global activity that utilises the wonders of social media as a primary avenue for museum curators and audiences to interact. While Twitter is generally the favoured communication platform on this day, Powerhouse made the decision to focus on Facebook instead – Twitter’s 140 character restriction was revealed to make any real discussion difficult.

Powerhouse Museum of Science + Design. image from

Powerhouse Museum of Science + Design. Image from

This year’s Ask a Curator Day activity was held on 1 September and was well-received by curious audiences who had a chance to go “behind the scenes” and into the inner workings of the Powerhouse Museum, making the museum experience more than just the usual one-dimensional visit.

Queries ranged from classic questions like, “What is the most difficult challenge for a curator?”, which takes the concept of “ask a curator” to a more literal and personal level, to the mundane, such as whether the helicopter entrepreneur and aviator Dick Smith used for his first solo flight around the world is still operational and could be taken for a joyride.

Bell 206B Jetranger III helicopter used by Dick Smith on the first solo navigation of the world on a rotary wing aircraft. image from

Bell 206B Jetranger III helicopter used by Dick Smith on the first solo navigation of the world on a rotary wing aircraft. Image from

During the occasion, 28 museum curators who participated in the activity were made directly available through Twitter and Facebook. When using Twitter, participants could either select a venue in the Who to Ask section of the Ask a Curator website, or include the hash tag #askacurator in their tweets to send in their enquiries. But although the Ask a Curator activity itself makes use of Twitter to host the event, the Powerhouse Museum made use of Facebook as their main platform.

In a Q & A with senior online producer Renae Mason (who together with curator Erika Dicker managed the event) regarding the museum’s preparations, she explains that she “chose Facebook, because it’s our most active ‘fan’ space to date and I know how addicted Australians are to Facebook, which was another good reason to further invest in the platform.”

Ask a Curator logo. image from

Ask a Curator logo. Image from

This move is quite understandable, given the greater amount of functionality Facebook provides its users. For one, users are not limited to 140 characters, thereby allowing more space for conversation between participants. By making whole conversations clearly available it seemed Facebook’s design interface encouraged discussions to continue past just the flat-out Q & A format. In addition, the curators were able to have their own profile page that they could use to respond to queries, adding a personal touch to the whole activity.


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Ask a Curator Day – behind what the Powerhouse is doing


By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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