Digital curator: From Antiquity into the Future
What do museum visitors want to see? How can they discover more details about the exhibit using interactive tools? As a digital curator, Isabella Hodgson builds bridges from the analogue to the digital, as an archaeologist from antiquity to the present. She researched Hellenistic ceramics for a long time. For some years now, her heart has been beating louder and louder for the digital and for the sea anyway.
„In Greece, you don’t decorate a Christmas tree, but a model ship and put it in your living room,“ says the native of Munich, noting that ships and the sea are under her skin. Whether as a holiday child on the Alster or as a doctoral student in Athens. Although the Bavarian concentrated on ancient pottery art for a long time, coastal breezes and swells remained faithful companions. Research for her doctoral thesis took her to various Greek islands. The decelerated journeys there by ship still have an effect: The maritime connection sticks with Hodgson. The sea as a place of longing appeared everywhere like a spotlight, it adorns Meissen porcelain, antique vases – in the German Maritime Museum (DSM) / Leibniz Institute for Maritime History it is practically in front of the desk of the Bremen-born artist.
Hodgson loves getting around and looking far – it’s in the family tradition: she owes her surname to her American grandfather. Her father grew up on the west side of the Atlantic – she in Munich. After studying archaeology, history and mineralogy in Würzburg and Naples, as well as stations at the University of Bonn, in a research institute in Athens and at the Ceramics Museum in Düsseldorf, Bremerhaven is now on her life’s itinerary.
In November, she anchored at the DSM and took up the post of digital curator. From millennia-old ceramic art to the mechanised, fast-moving future? For the archaeologist, this is not a contradiction: the position challenges her talent and comes closer to the vision of a „digital museum“. Her passion started with the foundation of her own virtual museum – the Pseudeion. (pseudeion.eu), in which she exhibited lost or non-existent curiosities. In Bremerhaven, she is building a bridge from the analogue to the virtual. „My dream was always the museum, to take up impulses from visitors and to impart knowledge,“ says the 40-year-old, who was already the woman for the digital in the Ceramics Museum and accompanied the house into the borderless modern age.
In her opinion, digital and museum are best intertwined in interactive and personal encounters. „It was already clear in the job advertisement that capturing 3D models and implementing various digital offerings is not a lonely task in a quiet closet. That made me curious.“ The digital curator networks and advises across all departments and develops ideas for a borderless museum visit. In her team, she works closely with IT specialists and a media scientist, and she wants to network with as many employees in the museum as possible. She not only tinkers with 3D models, but also talks a lot. As an advisor, she exchanges ideas with the curators and looks for ways to digitally complement analogue projects. In her mind, she ponders the questions: What do the guests want to see? How can knowledge about exhibits be conveyed interactively so that children and seniors find it exciting? Together with the team of the Education and Outreach Department, she develops new interactive knowledge and outreach offers.
The networking circle closes in the cooperation with visitor research, which records what is received by the guests and what is not. „My work as a digital curator is very creative and varied. I want to make as many voices as possible speak in the building and am therefore in constant exchange with many members of staff.“ As a place for everyone, a visit to the DSM should be physically and digitally possible without barriers. Hodgson therefore thinks barrier-free and inclusive. „My dream is to network the analogue and digital offering for all target groups. I want our guests to have a participatory, interactive and inclusive museum experience and to discover the exhibitions both from home and on site with us. All the technical refinements should not replace the physical visit, but motivate people to come to us.“