The policy column

Rachael Minott, Issue 119/05, 01.05.2019
A proactive approach to decolonisation
The Museums Association’s report into its Collections 2030 research is a tool to help museums, funders and sector bodies make collections relevant, empowering and dynamic.

Empowering Collections hopes to achieve its goal through 11 recommendations. These include a proposal for a proactive approach to democratising and decolonising museums. While having this as a separate recommendation is important in showing clarity of intention, it must be considered in relation to all museum practices.

Democratisation cannot be considered without looking at other recommendations in the report, such as reinterpreting out-of-date displays and interpretation. We also need to understand public expectations of museum collections, and to work with the community to democratise narratives and provide multiple perspectives on shared histories.

To decolonise museums and to work in a truly democratic way, we also need to follow through with the dialogue in partnership with communities, working towards mutual benefit with dispersed power and authority.

Decolonisation particularly challenges tokenistic projects, demanding they are embedded into museum practice and not treated as an optional extra.

A democratised and decolonialised museum is also about how we understand our digital presence. Accessible online collections become tools for engagement conducted independently of the museum and its specific context. This allows objects to be more used by people around the world.