Lifestyle & Culture

A Curated Idea

December 28, 2014


I HAVE A New Year’s Resolution. Not for me, mind you, but for everyone else.

It used to be that I had an aversion to the word “garner,” a verb you’d be hard pressed to find outside the sentence “Among the awards he garnered were . . . ,” and one that rarely came up in everyday speech, unless you were a speechmaker. Well, I still have the aversionCurateWeb but I’ve given up on that one: Clearly people will be garnering awards long after I’ve gone to my final reward, or award.

My new prey is the verb “to curate” and its adjectival form, “curated.” Here’s an idea of why.

The Martha Stewart site this season touted a “curated collection” of gifts. Fashionising, a style site in the U.K. and Australia, promoed “the curated wardrobe” as the “new luxury,” a way of saying quality over quantity. And St. Charles of New York, the kitchen company, launched a Curated division, whose goal is to help you choose the cabinetry right for your knives and forks and your glassware.

There’s more. Kickstarter introed Discover / Curated Pages, projects “curated by some of the world’s foremost creative communities.” Essentially it’s a page of links to organizations such as the Rhode Island School of Design and the Sundance Institute and Public Radio International, which then list projects they deem worthy of Kickstarter funding.

Even merchandise behemoths eBay and Amazon caught the curating bug.

The Amazon Curated Collection is a “great selection” of clothing and jewelry. And the jewelry comes in a nice box.

And last year eBay introduced “celebrity-curated collections.” In other words the commerce giant asked a bunch of people to wade through the pages and pages of stuff for sale and compile a “curated” selection, à la people’s Pinterest pages. (Nice idea, but I can’t find those pages on the site.)

Several years ago a designer told me, in answer to a question, that her style could be considered “curated.” At the time it sounded fresh, a new take on the hackneyed “eclectic,” which has been used to great harm in many, many interiors. But many curateds later, I’m over it.

Last year’s eBay Curated Collections announcement captured a comment from a reader far more quick to combust than I. One JensWeissflog commented: “Do hipsters really believe that if you barely insert the word curate to something, it signals good taste?” Apparently that’s the hope.

One entry into the field I’m loath to throw under the bus. There’s a Tumbler introduced at the beginning of the year by Nadja Spiegelman, a writer and daughter of comic artist Art Spiegelman (“Maus”), called Curated Craigslist. Basically she turns Craigslist from a rummage sale for “slightly used” and “gently worn” items for the home into an array of things in her New York area that you might actually want to consider.

The use (overuse?) of “curated” is understandable: There’s a lot of stuff out there, and most of it isn’t worth our time. I should be grateful for ways to separate the proverbial chaff from the wheat. But can’t we find another word? I suspect the real curators over at the National Gallery of Art would welcome that.

Or maybe I should curate this essay and chop out the not-so-good sentences?

–Nancy McKeon

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