I've been working on an article with a colleague, and came across something that's interesting, and that you might be able to help us with. There does appear to be a distinction between the way curation is used in the bio-sciences, and elsewhere. In particular, the term "curated database" tends to mean a manually constructed database that links literature to data, curated by experts who provide authority (eg see the Wikipedia definition of Biocurator). The earliest mention of the term "curated database" I can find is in the abstract (and only in the abstract) of Larsen et al (1993).
However, the terms "digital curation" and "data curation" tend to mean something different. We in the DCC say "Digital curation is maintaining and adding value to a trusted body of digital information for current and future use; specifically, we mean the active management and appraisal of data over the life-cycle of scholarly and scientific materials". This has a lot more elements of good management about it, and less of the idea of specific curators making judgements based on the literature. It has also been rather conflated with digital preservation.
The earliest reference to digital curation I can find is a report of an invitational meeting held in October 2001, oddly titled "The Digital Curation: digital archives, libraries and e-science seminar" (Beagrie and Pothen, 2001). In the meeting there was some discussion about data curation. The earliest more formal reference to data curation I can find is a technical report from Gray, Szalay et al (2002).
So my challenge is this: are there earlier references to digital (or data) curation, of the second kind?
Beagrie, N., & Pothen, P. (2001). The Digital Curation: digital archives, libraries and e-science seminar. Ariadne. http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue30/digital-curation/.
Gray, J., Szalay, A. S., Thakar, A. R., Stoughton, C., & vandenBerg, J. (2002). Online Scientific Data Curation, Publication, and Archiving. Redmond: Microsoft Research. http://arxiv.org/abs/cs.DL/0208012.
Larsen, N., Olsen, G. J., Maidak, B. L., McCaughey, M. J., Overbeek, R., Macke, T. J., et al. (1993). The ribosomal database project. Nucl. Acids Res., 21(13), 3021-3023. http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/21/13/3021