UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Gladsome moments: from the museum to the academy… and back? Mayer, Carol E.


When I began my career as a curator I never intended to teach. Twenty-five years later, I cannot imagine how I could not. I practice as a curator at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, where I also teach museum anthropology in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. Moving between the academy and the museum can be challenging and there are times when grading papers and writing exhibition text compete for my attention, and I find myself having to decide which role, at that particular time, should take precedence --practitioner or teacher? This is not a new dilemma for those who practice and teach. Katharine Lochlan (1991), curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, said “While spreading knowledge is clearly a laudable goal, and while curators are dedicated to furthering scholarship and have professorial qualifications, there are only so many hours to the day. The more energy a curator devotes to an outside activity such as teaching...the less he or she has for curatorial work...” (45). In this commentary, written as an autoethnography, I will share as analytically and objectively as I am able, my perceptions of how I became a teacher, why I have chosen to continue, and how my decisions have influenced my progress in the academy and my career as a curator.

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