That’s the Merriam-Webster definition for a Curator.

I am sad to say that there is one less curator working in the world today, and that is a loss of immeasurable proportions.

Why is that?

Island Video in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood of Seattle, WA was a video rental store. It held out through the era of Tower Video. It lived longer than Hollywood Video. And it outlived every Blockbuster store there ever was. It even thrived in the era of Netflix.

The reason why Island Video not only survived, but thrived, was because of Chris.

Like a curator at a museum, for almost 10 years Chris has carefully built the Island Video catalog into something truly exceptional. The range, quality, and quantity of videos available at Island Video always left you with far too many movies to choose from. (Unlike your regular video shop where you see 40 copies of Shrek and 50 copies of Twilight taking up one whole wall.)

But all those movies were on the shelf. A LOT of shelves. There was the weird Monster Movies section, and Horror flicks, and the “Organized By Director’s Name” section… but how were you ever going to find ONE movie to rent?!?

The answer was Chris.

As the curator of this collection, Chris knew every movie in the store and how they were all interrelated on every level. Last week when I told him I wanted a shoot-em-up movie, but not something brainless, he directed me to Leonardo DiCaprio (who I despise) in “Inception”. He said it was, “…a thinking-man’s action film.”

And I was completely happy with the movie, despite it featuring an actor I really don’t like!

Why was I happy with it?

Because of his description of it. That set the context in which I viewed the movie, and therefore I was completely satisfied with it. On the other hand, the first time Chris saw the movie he hated it because he was expecting a mind-bending journey like “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

If you view Inception through the lens of 2001, then it is totally inadequate and trite.

But if you view it through the lens of The Bourne Identity, then it is going to be a much more satisfying experience.

What Chris was for Island Video – the Curator of the collection – is a role that simply cannot be filled by technology. No amount of movie renting on Netflix is going to get me to rent Inception, and it is never going to give me an angle to view the movie from which is going to make it a more enjoyable experience for me.

And no pimply-faced $6/hr kid behind the counter at the local big box rental store is going to be the wealth of knowledge, caring, and intelligence that was Chris in his Curator role.

Talking with Chris the last day the store was open, I found out that he is going to commit himself full time to writing.

Not about movies.

And that is a loss for myself personally, as well as the film community at large.