Magazine Article

Disability, Curating and the Educational Turn: The Contemporary Condition of Access in the Museum


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The “educational turn” has successfully theorized how curators are now more and more embroiled in implementing educational strategies as part of their work in museums, departing from their more traditional and material orientations to objects. This turn might controversially suggest that those who work in the public programs and education departments of museums must, too, be considered as curators. Certainly, many museums are recognizing that it is beneficial to combine and merge the two roles of curator and educator, as witnessed by the creation of such new positions as the Curator of Public Engagement at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. If museums foresee how curators are playing a more critical role in working with their publics, rather than with objects, and if educators, too, are always already doing this kind of work, how can curators and educators work together to create meaningful and accessible experiences about disability in museums that serve a wide range of audiences? What work is currently being done and what kind of work still needs to be addressed? Certainly, disability has found a place in the museum, but why have museum education and public program departments been the instigators of actively bringing in artists with disabilities? How do invitations to do public or educational programming with artists with disabilities interface with curatorial invitations to participate in exhibitions, if at all? I am interested in how disability and access are being addressed in the museum because I identify as a curator and as a disabled person, and I continue to see a gap in curatorial practice and the educational turn that often misses the generative complexities that a disability studies framework offers art criticism, theory, and praxis.