I was recently at a party and upon mentioning where I work, I was asked: How do you pick exhibitions and how do you decide on the programming? I realized that this part of the process is probably a mystery to many (including me before I started doing it myself). Exhibitions can be curated in-house, in which case the curator researches a subject he/she is interested in, comes up with a thesis or story for the show, and selects objects (usually a combination of pieces the museum owns and pieces loaned by other museums and collectors) that tell the story.
Sometimes museums exhibit traveling shows that have been curated at another institution. If this is the case, how do you learn about the shows in the first place? Chipstone’s current exhibition, The New Materiality: Digital Dialogues at the Boundaries of Contemporary Craft, was first shown at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts. It was curated by University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee professor Fo Wilson. We learned about the exhibition through Fo, who sent us the catalog for us to see what she had been working on. The exhibition instantly appealed to us. It was edgy, interesting and thought provoking.