On the Job: The Story of Stuff

Darrin Alfred, a curator at the Denver Art Museum, shares what it's like to work with the second largest architecture, design, and graphics collection.

Darrin Alfred looking at flatware
Photo by Jeff Nelson

“People don’t know that the architecture, design, and graphics collection at the Denver Art Museum is the museum’s second-largest,” says DARRIN ALFRED, the collection’s curator. Alfred has had limited space to display the vast assortment, but that’s changing once updates to the North Building, featuring 7,500 square feet of gallery space for the design collection, are completed in 2021. Here, we look at other little-known things about Alfred’s post.

How did you get interested in curating?
“I fell into the architecture program in college, but knew I wasn’t interested in being an architect. I got my master’s in landscape architecture and knew I didn’t want to be a landscape architect. I was working for a high-end residential landscape architecture firm after school and found a job at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art curating the permanent architecture and design collections. I’ve been involved in museums since.”

How long does it take to curate exhibits?
“It can take many, many years. For instance, Serious Play, a new exhibit opening May 5, has a catalogue with it. When catalogues are involved, curating starts with determining the show’s opening date and then setting a catalogue content due date for a year before that. To create a catalogue, you need a running list of what will be in the show. Essentially, you want to have a rough exhibit checklist a year and a half before opening day.”

Can you get up close to historical objects?
“Yes. My assistant says one of her favorite things to do is go into storage and just spend time with our collection.”

What architectural piece do you wish you could see in person?
“There’s a house in Paris designed by Pierre Chareau called the Maison de Verre that has a spectacular modern construction. It’s a privately owned home, but they open it up to those in the field on a limited basis.”