The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The museum is developing its decolonisation practice and its director, Laura van Broekhoven, is one of the members of the working group

MA to support working group on decolonising museum practice

Yosola Olorunshola, 06.11.2019
New guidance to democratise and decolonise museums
The Museums Association’s (MA) Ethics Committee has launched a working group to produce practical guidance on museums and decolonisation.

As part of the research for our Empowering Collections report, we consulted more than 1,000 people from the museum sector, academia, funders and community groups to canvas opinions on the priority issues for museum collections over the next decade.

These discussions revealed a strong interest in addressing questions on decolonisation, but also highlighted a lack of information on how to approach the challenge.

The working group aims to respond to these questions and develop guidance to help museums take practical steps to decolonise both how they work, and how they interpret and display collections.

The group will be chaired by Rachael Minott, MA board member and curator of anthropology (social practice) at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

“I firmly believe it is all of our responsibility to decolonise our practices, to unpack and undo some of the violence colonial thinking has placed within museum structures,” said Minott.

“These violences are the unnamed forces we fight against when we pursue inclusive work and seek creative solutions to contemporary realities. Hopefully this group will be able to provide some tools to allow more of us to feel supported in this endeavor. I am proud to be in the same room with this team.”  

The first meeting took place on 16 October to outline the scope of work, which will involve collaborations with activists, museum workers, artists, academics, and diaspora groups to create a resource that museums can freely use.

The MA will also work with partner organisations, including Arts Council England, ICOM UK and Museums Galleries Scotland, to ensure best practice is shared.

“This guidance on decolonisation will come at a critical time for the museum sector. More and more museums across the UK are thinking about the origins of their collections and institutions and how they might open them up to multiple voices and narratives,” said MA director Sharon Heal.

“We know there are many more that want to do this work with their audiences and communities but need support to take the first steps. I hope that we can provide practical guidance that will see the journey to democratisation and decolonisation of collections and practice begin.”

If you would like to contribute to the work of the group please contact Alistair Brown, MA policy manager: alistair@museumsassociation.org

MA Decolonisation Working Group members

Chair

Rachael Minott
Curator of Anthropology (Social Practice), Horniman Museum and Gardens

Members

Neil Curtis
Head of Museums and Special Collections, University of Aberdeen

Tehmina Goskar
Director and Curator, Curatorial Research Centre

Miranda Lowe
Principle Curator (Invertebrate Zoology), Natural History Museum

Navjot Mangat
Senior Interpretation and Participation Producer, Victoria and Albert Museum

Helen Mears
Keeper of World Art, Brighton Museums

Sadiah Qureshi
Senior Lecturer in Modern History, University of Birmingham

Laura van Broekhoven
Director, Pitt Rivers Museum

Liam Wiseman
Relationship Manager (South-East Museums), Arts Council England

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