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Curating Pop : Exhibiting Popular Music in the Museum
Bloomsbury Academic

Curating Pop : Exhibiting Popular Music in the Museum

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Curating Pop
Author(s): Sarah Baker, Lauren Istvandity, Raphaël Nowak

Curating Pop speaks to the rapidly growing interest in the study of popular music exhibitions, which has occurred alongside the increasing number of popular music museums in operation across the world. Focusing on curatorial practices and processes, this book draws on interviews with museum workers and curators from twenty museums globally, including the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Experience Music Project in Seattle and the PopMuseum in Prague. Through a consideration of the subjective experiences of curators involved in the exhibition of popular music in museums in a range of geographic locations, Curating Pop compares institutional practices internationally, illustrating the ways in which popular music history is presented to visitors in a wider sense.


“Research across an impressive global sample of nineteen museums and their staff forms the basis of Curating Pop, a comprehensive and critical examination of the range of policies and practices used in the curation of popular music. This vital and authoritative survey has both depth and breadth, shaping a rich combination of overview with critical insight into why popular music matters, and how we should manage it. Curating Pop demonstrates how popular music has found its place within authorised and “DIY” heritage institutions and in cultural discourse more broadly. This excellent and important book, and the typology of approaches it presents, will shape practice for years to come.” —John Schofield, Professor and Director of Studies, Cultural Heritage Management, University of York, UK

“Whether you're delighted or mystified by the continuing rise of exhibitions centred around popular music, this book is for you. Using personal reflections from curators across the globe, Curating Pop cleverly unpacks the myriad challenges and rewards involved in getting mute objects to 'sing'.” —Carolyn Laffan, Senior Curator, Australian Music Vault, Arts Centre Melbourne, Australia

“As this book argues, popular music has found its place amidst the heritage sector, in innovative exhibitions in which materials are presented and preserved across a variety of museums and archives. However, as the authors demonstrate, the mediation of pop as heritage object raises questions about the security of its cultural value as it becomes subject to a range of curatorial responses, institutional challenges and economic insecurities.

In their approach to this fascinating subject, Baker, Istvandity and Nowack are admirably clear in purpose and systematic in their exploration of curatorial approaches to pop. The authors survey an impressive range of secondary material drawn from a rapidly growing field that will aid any reader's understanding of issues in popular music heritage and its place in the museum. This material is allied with a wealth of insightful and candid interviews with curators who reflect on their motives and work. They are afforded space for expression and in turn provide readers with a valuable resource for examining this practice. Attuned to the dispositions and storytelling role of curators, the book relates the ways in which they manage the weight of the canon or seek to expose other, hidden histories as they deal with the politics of pop, its prejudices and pleasures. Analysis is concerned as much with the commercial pressures of managing music exhibitions as it is with with the lure of nostalgia or the challenges of how sound plays a part (or does not) in the creative work of curators.

Offering much to think about and with, this work will appeal to museologists (old and new), as much as musicians, museum-goers and music consumers alike.” —Paul Long, Professor of Media and Cultural History, Birmingham City University, UK

“After decades of curating pop – in documentaries, archives and magazines – this book brings vital reflections about structuring concepts in curatorial practice. Based on earlier research on the topic and interviews with pop museum professionals, Curating Pop is a timely, sobering and inspiring read.” —Synnøve Engevik, Curator at Rockheim, The National Museum of Popular Music in Norway

ISBN:  9781501343575