Tumblr is Teaching People How to Curate

Okay, okay I know that I am going to make some people grumpy with this one, but hear me out. Curation is the practice of the collecting and caring for a collection. Traditionally the word actually comes from the person who is invested in the care of the soulsĀ of a parish. Often the word Curator is used to define a person who is the keeper of a cultural heritage institution. They are responsible for overseeing the growth and care of the collection as well as the interpretation of the materials in their care. Curators a revered in the arts industry, their practices are sort of shrouded in secrecy. Things are changing though, in the past 10 years the Digital Curation Centre has opened, while their practices are more linked to higher learning institutions their policies are still interesting. It means that digital curation is being taken seriously by more then just the people that consider themselves to be only curators.

image credit – freeadmission.com

Let’s talk more about the practice of curation. There are plenty of differing opinions on what makes someone a curator. In my opinion you are curating everything in your life all the time, you are always creating collections of things and overseeing the care of those collections. That is a broad idea though, and not one I expect everyone to understand or agree with. To narrow things down a little I think you are curating online whenever you share images, take instagram photos, or have a blog/twitter. You are making those choices; what is seen, what is brought together, etc. Tumblr more than another other platform is a good example of online curation.

I have noticed that people who have a Tumblr or frequent Tumblr are very opinionated about which ones are good and which ones are bad. There seems to be a very distinct measure for greatness on Tumblr. If you share unique interesting images, or you share great groups of images together. It is also influenced by the theme you use and if that theme goes well with the motif you have chosen for Tumblr. If you want the pictures to really shine your theme has to go well with those pictures. It is much like the layout and exhibition design of a good gallery or museum.

Then we get to the content, everything is so carefully selected on some of these tumblrs. One of my favorites in particular was suggested by a friend; http://fuckyeahurbantribes.tumblr.com/. This tumblr utilize a clean theme and features pictures of “urban tribes”, focusing on subcultures that possess a knack for remarkable fashion. Its selections are editorial in nature a good 90% of the time, you can just imagine some of these photos inspiring a Vouge or W magazine shoot. Its this kind of selectiveness that really makes this blog curated well and sets it apart from others with a similar focus.

image credit – nylonmedia.co.kr

Focused posting and the selective nature that most excellent tumblrs exhibit really set them apart from other blogging platforms. Tumblr seems to have naturally begun a fixation on photo/visual based communication. Most of the tumblrs I frequent are almost all visual, very little is written on tumblr. Due to its nature of bring visually driven in lends itself to becoming a mecca of experimental curation. What is even better about it is that it doesn’t have rules. Something that has a tendency to limit people in their abilities and creative goals in curation is these unspoken limitations that they placed upon themselves. It seems like most people view online galleries and brick and morter locations as well to have a set of “rules” they must curate by. Most of these limitations have been imposed due to this need to make money and get great reviews/critique. This stigma really limits curation sometimes and the fact that tumblr is not only free but doesn’t limit its creators is really motivating.

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