What exactly is a Curator, anyway?

Greetings!  This special edition of Curator’s Corner is inspired by an article recently published in The Guardian, interviewing curators at various UK museums about what exactly they do everyday in their jobs.

Our regular readers of the blog and the monthly newspage know me as the Gott Library’s resident curator and archivist, Rachel Scott.  Like many curators at small museums, the various curatorial roles at the Gott are broad and deep, including acquisitions, collections management, exhibit design, and many more.  Movies portray curators are erudite professor types with glasses and elbow patches on their wool sports coats, sitting at a desk in an office full of mahogany book shelves and Tiffany desk lamps.  But what do curators really do?

Real curators spend much of their time in jeans and work shirts, climbing on ladders in stark windowless repositories, and sitting in preservation labs building custom mounts for oddly shaped artifacts, and cleaning.  Lots of cleaning.

Let’s examine a curator’s job through the eyes of a new artifact.

Collecting Parameters: When an educational institutions begins collection artifacts and historical documents, the first decision to be made is what exactly will be collected.  This is the primary role of curating a collection.  As the article above explains, this does not mean choosing nice things.  In the case of the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation at The John Gott Library, we collect artifacts and documents that provide our visitors with a more complete picture of the history of Fauquier county, including its people, places, and businesses.  The intrinsic value, the specific connection to our history, is more important than the monetary value.

Acquisition and Accession: After deciding what artifacts will be collected, the next step is an acquisition.  When a new artifact comes into the Library as a donation, the curator will oversee the accessioning of the artifact.  Acquiring an object is the official hand-off and transferring ownership (usually involving signing a form and receiving a receipt).  An object is then accessioned when it is evaluated by the curator, and detailed notes and photographs are entered into the official record.

Collections Management: After an object has been accessioned, it will be fitted for proper housing.  Housing refers to the packing materials that will hold the object (which can be much more complicated than it sounds), and its place within the repository (special storage).

Objects are not collected to merely be hidden away in storage.  Collections can be used in various ways, primarily research and exhibition.  In both cases, the purpose of the objects in the collection is for education.  Research collections are specifically for – you guessed it- research.  These collections are more hands-on, and are often utilized for traveling collections (when the curator takes objects to schools and other libraries to provide authentic visual aids to lectures and talks), for analysis (such as carbon dating or chemical analysis), and for individual researchers to access within the Library.

Exhibition:  Most objects collected will be exhibited.  Curating exhibits a primary role of the resident curator, and involves choosing a theme for the exhibit, establishing the educational goals, and then selecting objects and documents that best achieve those goals.  Then, the curator would usually create an exhibit proposal, including what is to be included, all text and labels, lighting, housing, and more.  Once the proposal is accepted, installation begins.

Engaging our Visitors:  Museums and Libraries are educational institutions, first and foremost.  While curating collections and designing exhibits, the curator is constantly seeking further engagement with visitors. We ask ourselves:  How do we make our collections resonate with visitors?  How do we make it personal?  How do we make our collections and our mission relevant?  This is the curator’s goal.

In larger museums, the curatorial department is made up of many jobs- Head Curator, Collections Curators and their Assistant Curators, Collections Management, Registrar, Exhibition Design, etc.  No matter how many staff members are involved, or how many hats a curator wears, the work is never ending.  And we love it that way.



300 yr old Ship Discovered in our Backyard

The discovery of a 300-year-old ship at a construction site has archaeologists ecstatic

A Washington Post article by Patricia Sullivan

A large, heavy ship, scuttled between 1775 and 1798, is being dug out of its damp grave at the site of a new hotel construction project in Old Town Alexandria.

Archaeologists found the partial hull of a ship at 220 S. Union Street, part of the city’s major redevelopment of the Potomac River waterfront. It’s on the same one-block site where workers two months ago discovered a 1755 foundation from a warehouse that is believed to have been the city’s first public building.

“It’s very rare. This almost never happens,” said Dan Baicy, the hard-hatted field director for Thunderbird Archeology, the firm watching for historic evidence during construction. “In 15 years that I’ve done this work, I’ve never run into this kind of preservation in an urban environment where there’s so much disturbance.”

View the whole article here:


Holiday Greetings from the Gott

We Give Thanks

Thank you to all those who submitted feedback after our November newspage dedicated to Northern Fauquier Veterans.  We are curating an updated list of Fauquier Veterans, and expanded to include veterans of the entire Count, that will be published in the early Spring of the new year.  We also plan to add this list to our web site and Facebook page.  Once again, if you know of any Fauquier Veterans who were not mentioned in the November newspage, please help us update our list by contacting the Gott Library with your additions.

A special Thank You to Mr. and Mrs. Thorpe of Warrenton, who graciously hosted the Gott Library Board of Directors for a guided tour of their extraordinary historical home, which was recently featured in the December issue of Early American Life magazine.  A newspage dedicated to their work and collection is planned for the new year.

Seasons Greetings

The crisp air and smell of chimney smoke signals the start of the holidays here in Fauquier.  Main streets all over the county are decked in red and green boughs and candles glimmer in window panes.  Here in Marshall, we are preparing for our annual holiday parade to be held the morning of December 5th on Main Street.


Marshall Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 5th, at 11:00am on Main Street

Dress warmly and bring the whole family to Main Street, Marshall,

to enjoy this traditional, small-town Holiday celebration. 

For more information on the parade, please call (540) 364-2047


 You are invited to an

Open House

at the Gott Library on December 5th

following the Main Street Holiday Parade.


Scenes of the Season

Beatty Brothers sleigh ride - Copy

Beatty Brothers Garage, sleigh ride (in rear of garage)

  snow scene marshall jan 7 1916

A snowy Main Street, January 7, 1916

klipstein house in west end marshall jan 8 1892

Klipstein House in West End, Marshall

Jan. 8, 1892

The above photo taken by James H. Klipstein on a snowy Main Street.  In the distance, on the right, is

the Methodist Parsonage and the gables of the Russell-Rose Home

klipstein house east from keyser building 1916 - Copy

Klipstein House, East from Keyser Building, 1916

Some may recognize this as the later site of Nick’s Glascock Grocery.

In Loving Memory of Laurene Bridges, The First Editor of the Gott Library Newsletter


…from the Gott Library

Dedicated to our first editor, Laurene Bridges

A publication of The Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation, Inc.

Volume 5, No. 10   October 2015

Laurene Bridges memorial photo

Laurene Bridges

1937 – 2015

Laurene Bridges, board member of the Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation/ The John K. Gott Library, died October 8, 2015 following a long and gallant battle with cancer.

Laurene was the editor of our Foundation newsletter since its inception, spanning nearly five years. She was dedicated to her adopted home of Marshall and was active in her church, various reading groups, and certainly dedicated to the functions of the Gott Library.  Laurene was loved by all who knew her.  She gave freely to the various efforts of the Foundation and her ready smile and laughter will be missed.

From this point forward all editions of our monthly newsletter will carry Laurene’s name as a token of the Foundation’s love and affection for our departed co-worker.  As Bridges…from the Gott Library, the newspage will continue to bridge the distances between the FHPF and our membership.

Bob Sinclair, President

Fauquier Heritage and Preservation Foundation / The John K. Gott Library