In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Curatorship

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Organizations
  • Foundational Texts
  • Collected Essays
  • Material Culture
  • Intangible Cultural Heritage
  • Ethics

Anthropology Curatorship
Steven Lubar, Allyson LaForge
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 January 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0229


The traditional work of curators—collecting, caring for, researching, and exhibiting artifacts in museums—has expanded in many directions in recent years. Curators today connect as well as collect. They work with several diverse communities: source communities, museum visitors, and researchers. While much of their work remains rooted in material culture and museums, they increasingly work with intangible cultural heritage and consider digital manifestations of culture. This bibliography offers historical and contemporary as well as theoretical and practical perspectives on curatorship. It begins with a listing of journals and organizations useful to scholars of curation and museum practitioners. The following sections, which list foundational texts and books of collected essays on museum curatorship, offer an introduction and overview of the field. Next is a section providing historical perspective on curatorship, including writing on important museums and exhibitions. This history is followed by sections describing the dual objects of curatorial work: intangible cultural heritage and material culture. Next is a section on curatorial work, divided into subsections that address theory, practice, and digital approaches. Decolonizing curatorial practice, which involves challenging museums’ colonial practices and including Indigenous people in the conservation, interpretation, and display of their material culture and histories, is a necessary corrective to and extension of this traditional work; subsections include shared authority, repatriation and restitution, and indigenizing curation. The bibliography ends with perhaps the most important topic: curatorial ethics. The focus is on anthropological curatorship, but we have included material from nearby fields, including art and history curatorship, when the additional perspective seems useful. The geographical focus is on the United States, and to a lesser extent Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, with a few entries describing European museum work. There are several other bibliographies in the Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology that complement this one. See the separate Oxford Bibliographies articles Museum Anthropology, Cultural Resource Management, and Public Archaeology.


Journals on curatorial topics balance practice and theory, method and critique, the academy and the museum. Listed here are three journals focused on anthropology curatorship: the Journal of Museum Ethnography, Museum Anthropology, and Museum Anthropology Review. Curator, Collections, and Museum Management and Curatorship are aimed at museum workers, and tend toward more practical articles. The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum and Museums & Social Issues focus on the relationships of museums with contemporary social concerns. Museum Worlds and Museum and Society tend toward more academic and theoretical concerns. Curators should also browse journals on other aspects of museum work, for example, on museum informatics, museum education, and museum management, as well as the magazines published by the major museum organizations, including the American Alliance of Museums and the International Council of Museums. The traditional journals in anthropology and archaeology occasionally address topics of museum interest. Many museums publish journals focused on their research and exhibitions. Additional journals of interest to curators are found in the separate Oxford Bibliographies articles Museum Anthropology

  • Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals. 2004–.

    Articles on “handling, preserving, researching, interpreting, and organizing collections,” including anthropological collections.

  • Curator: The Museum Journal. 1958–.

    Articles on issues, practices, and policies in museum administration, research, exhibition development, visitor studies, conservation, education, collection management, and other subjects of current concern to the community.

  • The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum. 2008–.

    How can museums become more inclusive? Articles on the historic character and future shape of museums.

  • Journal of Museum Ethnography. 1989–.

    Published by the Museum Ethnographers Group (United Kingdom): covers “all aspects of contemporary and historical practice in museum ethnography, including collecting and collectors, conservation, curation, display and exhibition, documentation, ethics, fieldwork, photography, repatriation, research and theory.”

  • Museums & Social Issues: A Journal of Reflective Discourse. 2006–.

    Focus on the relation of museums and “compelling social issues.”

  • Museum and Society. 2003–.

    Published by the University of Leicester Museum Studies program; cutting edge articles both empirical and theoretical.

  • Museum Anthropology. 1970–.

    A publication of the Council for Museum Anthropology. Articles on collecting, repatriation, and exhibitions, both practical and theoretical, as well as exhibition and book reviews.

  • Museum Anthropology Review. 2007–.

    Published for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures by Indiana University Bloomington. From 2007 to 2019, MAR published articles on a wide range of topics on anthropology in and of the museum; after 2019, more narrowly focused on the work of the Mathers Museum.

  • Museum Management and Curatorship. 1986–.

    Current issues of museum practice.

  • Museum Worlds. 2013–.

    An academic journal of museum theory and method with global scope.

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