Curatorial Poetry

  • Curatorial Poetry is a Tumblr blog which automatically posts a new "poem" every two hours. These poems are made up of entries in the description field from the collection metadata of Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Once every two hours, a random object record is drawn from over 100,000 possible records. The description field is then posted along with a link to the object's page on the Cooper-Hewitt collection website. There is no other information about the object other than its record ID number.
    This project was initially an experiment to learn how to work with the Cooper-Hewitt Collection API, as well as the Tumblr API. It was inspired by the work of the Cooper-Hewitt Labs who had previously built a new collection website from the ground up. On the collection website, whenever an object is presented that has not yet been digitized, the descriptive text is placed where the image would normally appear.
    I quickly noticed that this text was often humorous, and sometimes not very descriptive, as in the example shown here of "dragon." I was also interested in finding new ways to bring the depths of Cooper-Hewitt's collection to the surface and in a context that was unusual and a new point of view. In this new form as a Tumblr blog, as well as a Facebook and Twitter feed, objects are thrust upon the blog's followers every two hours. I was interested in how this little intervention might play out, giving the follower a small surprise every two hours. This time-clock-ticking action I felt was necessary in order to ensure that followers would sort of "see" it no matter when they logged on. A quick scroll back in time reveals at least one or two posts, no matter where you follow the feed. This is a huge departure from how we normally think of browsing or searching a collection of, well anything! It's this lazy and casual form of browsing that I think is very interesting. Its how we communicate these days, receive news, and learn of the intricacies of our culture on a daily basis. To me, it's a little absurd to think that just because we have a collection, that people will want to come and look through it.
    I'm also very interested in the de-coupling of images from this feed of information. I think the "poems" stand on their own and provide an unusual and unexpected way of learning about design. We are always so quick to think in images, but the Internet was built on text, and reading. Whole sub-sections of the net communicate nearly solely based on the written word, and I think this project folds into this idea very nicely.
    In the work I do, I tend to go for the simple. I like small projects that leave you guessing and thinking about what is actually going on here. Curatorial-Poetry is "just another little robot-weblog". With the current size of the collection, it should be able to run for about the next 8 years--once every two hours.