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How a Museum Curator Decides Which Objects to Put on Display

For the New-York Historical Society’s Robert Caro exhibition, they include a typewriter and lots of pieces of paper.

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Episode Notes

This week, host June Thomas talks to Debra Schmidt Bach, a curator of the New-York Historical Society’s new exhibition, ” ‘Turn Every Page’: Inside the Robert A. Caro Archive.” They discuss the art of selecting objects that visitors will respond to; how artifacts like notebooks and a typewriter showcase Caro’s idiosyncratic writing process, and the particular challenges of maintaining an exhibition that features lots of pieces of paper, a material that needs to “rest” so that it can be preserved.

After the interview, June and co-host Karen Han discuss what kind of museum visitors they are, the art of winnowing, and how they find projects that will sustain their interest.

In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, Schmidt Bach reveals her strategy for overcoming “curator’s block” and shares what she learned from working on the Caro exhibition.

Send your questions about creativity and any other feedback to working@slate.com or give us a call at (304) 933-9675.

Podcast production by Kevin Bendis and Cameron Drews.

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Slate interviews Americans about their jobs.

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  • June Thomas is senior managing producer of Slate podcasts.