Custodians: From Curators to Guardians
A Professional Role for Italian Museums and Its Historical Definitions
This paper reflects on the changing role of the guardian or keeper in museums and art collections from the seventeenth century to the present. Starting from the lexical meaning of the Italian word ‘custode’, thanks to archival documentation, the research reconstructs the use of this word in the historical lexicon of museums and their professions, in different geographical and cultural contexts. Comparing the historical regulations of museums and art collections in different Italian regions, the paper argues that the profound changes associated with the functions and the professional profile of the keepers transformed them from curators of collections to mere guardians of rooms.
Keywords: Academy • Museum • Keeper • Curator