Curator Q&A: What Goes Into Curating an Exhibition Like This?

Exhibition curator Daniel Piazza answers questions about Baseball: America’s Home Run.

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I think that most visitors assume that when you curate an exhibition of this scale, that the way the process works is this right? You have the curator at the museum who's an expert on this topic, and therefore they curate an exhibit. And, you know, sometimes it works that way. Uhm, but not always, at least in my case, it certainly hasn't always worked that way.

Very often you kind of have an idea or a germ for an exhibit that you know that you want to put together, and that's when you'll kind of learn about it and do the process of research. So frequently, one way I like to approach it sometimes is to pick a topic I want to learn more about and commit myself to curating an exhibition about it. And then you really, you will be on a crash course and learn a lot about that topic in a short period of time.

So you know, I, I was certainly a casual baseball fan when I had the idea of putting together a baseball exhibit. But I was not, and I'm still by no means an expert on the sport's history.

So I had to visit with and talk with a lot of people who were, and that you know, included collectors, but also going to other institutions. I spent a week at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown both looking through their collections to identify material that we might want to borrow. And they've been a wonderful partner with us in this exhibition in loaning material to us. Visiting with private collectors like our honorary advisor Stephen Wong and others, in many cases, going to their homes and looking at their collection and talking with them about why pieces were important and what stories they told.

And then when it came down to actually writing the script for the exhibit, that's sitting with a lot of the, of the great books that have been written on the history of baseball. And baseball is kind of unique among sports in that it really does have this whole literature around it, histories that have been written, multiple histories that most other sports don't have. You know you'd be lucky to find maybe 10 or 12 really good scholarly books, say on the history of, I don't know, hockey or lacrosse or basketball or something like that. But baseball has whole societies of people who do nothing but research and write about it, and shelves worth of books. So it, of all the sports, it does seem to lend itself to that type of research and writing.

So that's part of it, getting being accurate, but not just accurate in terms of the facts that you're presenting in the exhibit, uh, getting into the spirit of the game and discussing some of the mythology around it and, and getting and making that feel authentic and accurate also. That's all part of the research and presentation process too.

So it's a lot of fun, and it's, I, certainly didn't start out as an expert in baseball, but, you learn a lot about it in a short period of time by curating an exhibit like this, especially this scale.