Launched in 2022, MoPOP’s Guest Curator program highlights emerging curatorial voices. Guest curators receive hands-on experience working with MoPOP’s Curatorial, Collections, and Exhibits teams while sharing valuable new perspectives and interpretations of MoPOP’s pop culture collection. Here, Guest Curator Olivia Ross introduces her new exhibit, Queens of the Guitar.
As a woman guitarist, I felt that building an exhibit around such a large part of my identity was important. I started playing guitar when I was ten years old and have played every day since, even teaching it along the way. Growing up I didn’t see as many women playing guitars as men, and this made me want to highlight it in my life as an important part of me and not just a hobby.
Curating this exhibit was a long journey. I did most of my research by watching interviews that the women did and reading magazine interviews from them. It was a really gratifying experience to learn about these women and their lives beyond pictures and videos of them playing guitar. Seeing artifacts that I had only seen in photographs when I was younger versus seeing them when I was older was a surreal feeling. Being able to write about the objects that inspired me all those years ago felt like a full circle moment that my ten-year-old self would have been jumping up and down with joy over. Searching through MOPOP’s Permanent Collection was a daunting but freeing experience. I have never had this kind of freedom when creating an exhibit and the experience I had creating it was so much fun. From the age of sixteen I knew I wanted to be a curator, and what better way to do my first solo exhibit than on the instrument and women who shaped my formative years.
This exhibit is important for women guitarists to get the same amount of recognition as male guitarists do. Something I noticed when I was during research was that for as much information as I was able to find on women guitarists there was almost twice the amount of information available for male guitarists. This encouraged me more with this exhibit to highlight the women who broke the glass ceiling with guitars. I wanted to highlight their accomplishments all in one place and bring sources of information together because it is something that hasn’t really been done before. You never know who is going to come to the exhibit and be inspired by what they read or see and carry it with them forever.