Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 85–100 | Cite as

The Role of the Curator in Modern Hospitals: A Transcontinental Perspective

  • Hilary MossEmail author
  • Desmond O’Neill


This paper explores the role of the curator in hospitals. The arts play a significant role in every society; however, recent studies indicate a neglect of the aesthetic environment of healthcare. This international study explores the complex role of the curator in modern hospitals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten arts specialists in hospitals across five countries and three continents for a qualitative, phenomenological study. Five themes arose from the data: (1) Patient involvement and influence on the arts programme in hospital (2) Understanding the role of the curator in hospital (3) Influences on arts programming in hospital (4) Types of arts programmes (5) Limitations to effective curation in hospital. Recommendations arising from the research included recognition of the specialised role of the curator in hospitals; building positive links with clinical staff to effect positive hospital arts programmes and increasing formal involvement of patients in arts planning in hospital. Hospital curation can be a vibrant arena for arts development, and the role of the hospital curator is a ground-breaking specialist role that can bring benefits to hospital life. The role of curator in hospital deserves to be supported and developed by both the arts and health sectors.


Medical humanities Curation Arts Hospital Arts and health 



The National Centre for Arts and Health at Tallaght Hospital where the first author was Director while conducting this research. The Meath Foundation who part funded the research post of HMoss.

The ten participants who were interviewed for this research: Michelle Cassavant, Manager, Arts in Healthcare at Friends of University Hospitals Alberta Health Services, Edmonton, Canada,; Guy Eades, Director Healing Arts, Isle of Wight, UK,; Sally Francis, Arts Co-ordinator, Arts in Health, Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide, Australia,; Damian Hebron, Head of Arts, Addenbrooke’s Arts, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, UK,; Mary Grehan, Director, Waterford Healing Arts Trust, Waterford, Ireland,; Dr Jenny McFarlane, Curator, Arts in Health, Health Service Planning, Canberra, Australia,; Christina Mullen, Director, Shands Arts in Medicine, Florida, USA,; Edelle Nolan, Arts Co-ordinator, Cork University Hospital, Cork, Ireland,; Katherine Trapanovski, Program Director, Arts in Healthcare Initiative, Center for the Arts, Buffalo, New York, USA,; Laura Waters, Arts Programme Manager, Derby Teaching Hospital, Derby, UK

Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by The Meath Foundation (Grant number 14/105).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (St. James/Tallaght Hospital Ethics Committee) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study and additional informed consent was obtained from all individual participants for whom identifying information is included in this article.


  1. Alexander, V. 2003. Sociology of the Arts. Oxford, Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, D. and N. Karczmar. 1990. "World of Museums: What Shall We Do with Curators?." Museum Management and Curatorship 9(2): 209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arts Council Dublin. 2006. "The Public and the Arts." Published by the Arts Council, December. Accessed 9 November 2016.
  4. Arts Council England. 2007. "The Arts, Health and Well-being." Published by the Arts Council. Accessed 28 September 2010.
  5. Aston, J. 2009. “Hospital Arts Co-ordinators: An Accidental Profession?” Unpublished thesis, Clore Fellowship. Accessed 9 November 2016.
  6. Caspari, S., K. Eriksson, K. Eriksson, and D. Naden. 2006. "The Aesthetic Dimension in Hospital--An Investigation into Strategic Plans." International Journal of Nursing Studies 43:851-859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. -----. 2007. "Why not Ask the Patient? An Evaluation of the Aesthetic Surroudings in Hospitals by Patients." Quality Management in Health Care 16 (3): 280-292.Google Scholar
  8. Chatterjee, H. J. 2012. "Museums, Health and Wellbeing: The Ezine of the Heritage Council." Accessed 12 November 2012.
  9. Crawford, P., B. Brown, C. Baker, V. Tischler, and B. Abrams. 2015. Health Humanities, Palgrave London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crawford, P., L. Lewis, B. Brown, and N. Manning. 2013. "Creative Practice as Mutual Recovery in Mental Health." Mental Health Review 18 (2): 44-64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeNora, T. 2013. Music Asylums: Well-being through Music in Everyday Life. Ashgate Publishing Limited.Google Scholar
  12. Dumenco, S. 2011. "Why calling Yourself a Curator is the new Power Move." Accessed 13 November 2015.
  13. Jacobs, E. 2014. "Streaming Services: Confessions of a Music Curator." The Financial Times August 14. Accessed 15 November 2015.
  14. Kieran, M. 2005. "Value of Art." In The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics edited by B. Gaut and D. McIver Lopes, 293-307. Abingdon, Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Lane, M. R. 2005. "Spirit Body Healing--A Hermeneutic, Phenomenological Study Examining the Lived Experience of Art and Healing." Cancer Nursing 28 (4): 285-291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McFarlane, J. 2015. Curator, Arts in Health, Health Service Plannning, Canberra, Australia.Google Scholar
  17. McNaughton, R. 2007. "Art in Hospital Spaces: The Role of Hospitals in an Aestheticised Society." International Journal of Cultural Policy 13 (1):85-101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Moss, H., C. Donnellan, D. O'Neill. 2012. "A review of Qualitative Methodologies used to Explore Patient Perceptions of Arts and Healthcare." Medical Humanities 38 (2): 106-109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. ------. 2014. "Hospitalization and Aesthetic Health in Older Adults." Journal of the American Medical Directors Assocation 16 (2): 173 e11-e16.Google Scholar
  20. Moss, H. and D. O'Neill. 2014a. "The Aesthetic and Cultural Interests of Patients attending an Acute Hospital--A Phenomenological Study." Journal of Advanced Nursing 70 (1): 121-129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. ------. 2014b. "Aesthetic Deprivation in Clinical Settings." The Lancet 383:1032-1033.Google Scholar
  22. Museum Associations Organisation. 2015. "Curating the Nation." Accessed 23 June 2015.
  23. O'Connell, C., A. Cassidy, et al. 2013. "The Aesthetic and Cultural Pursuits of Patients with Stroke." Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Diseases 22 (8): e404-e418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. O'Neill, M. 2008. "Museums, Professionalism and Democracy." Cultural Trends 17 (4): 289-307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. O'Sullivan, C. and G. Chard. 2010. "An Exploration of Participation in Leisure Activities Post-stroke." Australian Occupational Therapy 57 (3): 159-166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Obrist, H. U. 2015. Ways of Curating. Penguin Random House, UK.Google Scholar
  27. Oxford University Press. 2015. Accessed 27 October 2015.
  28. Plagens, P. 2013. "Cool Curating." Arts in America (Jan): 41-44.Google Scholar
  29. Van Manen, M. 1990. Researching Lived Experience: Human Science for an Action Sensitive Pedagogy. New York: State University of New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irish World Academy of Music and DanceUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Centre for Ageing, Neurosciences and the Humanities, Trinity Centre for Health SciencesTallaght HospitalDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations