Investigating Curatorial Voice with Corpus Linguistic Techniques

Andrew Salway, James Baker


We seek to demonstrate how corpus linguistic techniques can facilitate a comprehensive account of curatorial voice in a large digitised museum catalogue and hence leverage its value as a resource for generating new knowledge about: curatorial practice; the historical and cultural contexts of curation; and, the content of collections. We worked with 1.1 million words written by the historian M. Dorothy George between 1930 and 1954 to describe 9330 late-Georgian satirical prints. George’s curatorial descriptions were analysed in terms of their typical informational content and with regards to the extent George included interpretation and evaluation in her descriptions. We discuss how results from such analyses can provide a basis for addressing questions about George’s curatorial voice and, more generally, suggest how this approach could benefit museological practice around the production of descriptions and the re-purposing of legacy catalogues for digital access and analysis of collections.


curation; catalogues; corpus linguistics; British Museum; Dorothy George

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Copyright (c) 2020 Andrew Salway, James Baker

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

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