Curse of the curator


Every condition exists simply because someone profits by its existence

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Once a learner, always a learner. I’ve always loved studying and knowing more about a variety of themes, be it history, arts, culture, sciences, literature, languages, and politics. My quest for knowledge stems out of the need for and the ability to hold meaningful and enriching conversations. I also believe that knowledge empowers and experiences enrich life. 

 

It is no surprise then that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my Swedish language classes at SFI. The Swedish government, in an effort to facilitate better integration of immigrants into the Swedish community, provides free language classes for all newcomers, which I appreciate to no end. The thrill of being able to identify adjectives on sign boards in the T-Bana, or verbs in an advertisement on the Pendeltåg after a four-hour morning class is something that can only be felt and not written about. 

 

Language and culture cannot be separated, and the policy makers understand this well. As a student of SFI, not only do we learn in technology enabled classrooms, but also visit a number of museums during summer. Yesterday we visited the Nordiska museum, >>Sweden’s largest museum of cultural history. The focus of the museum is people living and working in Sweden and the Nordic region, back in the days and present<< This is one of the most well-curated museums that I have visited. 

 

As is normal with most things Swedish, the museum engages with a lot of technology to create a memorable experience. The permanent and temporary exhibitions have a vast collection of artefacts and concise information about each. But what made my experience profound was the addressing of the problematics of curation and the role of museums itself. As an ethnographer and anthropologist, I have often noticed the underlying exoticism and ‘otherness’ behind a lot of research and fieldwork, and the tone and voice of such works. Curators of the Nordiska museum have paid attention to educating the visitor about the culture of Sweden, but also encourage them to think about the violence of anthropology, ethics, ownership, and the effects of urbanisation and modernisation, thereby addressing these issues and not sweeping the dust under a richly embroidered 17th century carpet. This is the only museum of the many that I’ve visited that does not merely glorify the institution of a museum, but also acknowledges the flip side, adhering to the Swedish principle of >>lagom<< or balance that underlies the working of the Swedish society. 

 

Yesterday’s experience also resonates with what I’ve experienced in these six months in Sweden, that knowledge and information are not a privilege and should be accessible. Here’s to more learning!

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