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MA backs National Trust over Pride programme

Patrick Steel, 07.08.2017
Fears that rainbow badge controversy could deter future LGBT programming
The Museums Association (MA) has expressed disappointment at the row over the National Trust’s (NT) Prejudice and Pride programme, which highlights LGBT stories relating to the trust’s properties.

Volunteers at Felbrigg Hall, a National Trust property near Cromer in Norfolk, were asked to wear rainbow badges and lanyards as part of a campaign to commemorate 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

According to a report in The Telegraph, when some volunteers refused to wear the rainbow symbol in protest at the NT’s decision to ‘out’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, who bequeathed the property to the trust, they were told they would not be allowed to meet and greet visitors to the estate.

The trust has since said the wearing of rainbow badges and lanyards would be an optional, “personal decision” for volunteers.

Alistair Brown, the MA’s policy officer, said: “It’s been hugely disappointing to see this excellent programme become the subject of controversy this weekend. Museums should feel confident in recognising and celebrating LGBT history – I very much hope that this incident won’t deter others from doing similar work in the future.”

A spokesman for the trust said: “We hugely value our volunteers and many across the country have taken the opportunity to get involved in developing our Prejudice and Pride programme, which explores LGBT heritage.

“At Felbrigg, many volunteers have enthusiastically supported a new exhibition, which looks at the life of the extraordinarily generous Robert Ketton–Cremer. His decision to leave the house to the Trust was the result in part of the fact that he had never married and had no heirs to inherit. We asked all our staff and volunteers at the house to wear rainbow lanyards or badges during the six week event as a welcoming symbol to all our visitors.

“We remain absolutely committed to our Pride programme, which will continue as intended, along with the exhibition at Felbrigg.

“However, we are aware that some volunteers had conflicting, personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges. That was never our intention.

“We are therefore making it clear to volunteers that the wearing of the badges is optional and a personal decision. We will be speaking to all our volunteers at Felbrigg over the coming days about this issue.”

Brown wrote a letter to The Telegraph in response to the article, which read: “Alongside many other museums across the country, the National Trust is using some of its exhibitions this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality and to uncover previously ignored histories of LGBT communities. This has been rightly uncontroversial.

“It should also be uncontroversial that the National Trust is asking its public-facing volunteers to participate fully in its Prejudice and Pride programme, while also giving a small number of unwilling volunteers the option to take on other duties instead. To suggest – as your leader article does – that this approach amounts to ‘intolerance’ of volunteers’ views is to create a false and upsetting equivalence with the genuine intolerance suffered by LGBT people for many years.

“We hope that your readers will engage with LGBT programmes in museums across the UK this year to find out more about this fascinating history.”

Comments

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Robin Clarke
Distance Learning Academic Manager, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
12.08.2017, 17:32
Some of the conversations around this have been deeply alarming. That in 2017 people object to wearing a symbol of equality (and that's all it is) is, frankly, quite distressing. Why wouldn't you wear it? Why wouldn't you want to say to a discriminated community that you welcome them? What message are you giving by refusing to where a symbol of equality and inclusion? Not a good one, I would suggest.

Well, maybe we should think about why we should embrace such campaigns and symbols. Let's start with the National Trust's own mission: For Ever, For Everyone. This means they have a duty to be fully representative of the communities and society that they exist to serve, including LGBTQ communities. That they have launched a campaing like Prejudice and Pride is a huge step forward and a terrific example to our sector and others. The film about Ketton-Cremer does not out him. It is made quite clear in the film that those who knew him were aware of his sexuality. It seems to me that he was as open as a man in his position could be. His sexuality is not a source of shame, it is not something we should hide. It is not something he should have had to hide either. It is part of who he was and shouldn't be hidden. If he wanted it concealed, would he really have bequeathed his personal papers to the National Trust? I doubt it.

Museums have critical roles. They have long excluded LGBTQ people (and other discriminated groups). They must now take an active role in redressing the homophobia (and other forms of discrimination) that they have perpetuated. Museums must be active in the fight against discrimination - to do otherwise is to be complicit in that discrimination.

I'm thrilled to see the Trust being active in this way and delighted to see the Museums Association backing them. It is exactly the sort of work I expect the MA to undertake, and am pleased to see Sharon's comment below.

I'm also thrilled to see some of the great work done to represent LGBTQ communities in other museums this year. But we must resist tokenism, and make representation of discriminated communities a core part of our work.

There is no 'LGBT Crusade' here. Just people doing their jobs as they should do, in a moral, ethical, honest and inclusive way - For Ever, For *Everyone*.

Anonymous
11.08.2017, 23:50
Homophobia is as deviant as racism and there is no place for any form of it in our contemporary museum practice. We are ethically obliged to go the extra mile to represent and support all those protected by the equalities act and the colours of the Lgbt flag stand for positive values.
Anonymous
11.08.2017, 23:32
The National Trust, like all heritage organisations, should strive to tell the full story, but perhaps the marketing team can come up with better way to broadcast a message and create change without branding their staff and volunteers.

The NT are a very visible organization but appear to have the agility of a leaden footed dinosaur and their public relations team while fluent in 'metropolitan', need to learn the other dialects spoken by their supporters and their detractors across the UK.

Meanwhile, i am off to find a dictionary to look up the meaning of 'heteronormative'. I have found heterosexuals to be rather heterogeneous.
Sharon Heal
Director, Museums Association
11.08.2017, 23:04
Dear all,

Interested to read this discussion and sorry to come late to it.

To be clear the Museums Association is a membership organisation that campaigns and advocates for museums to change lives; our values are explicitly stated here: http://www.museumsassociation.org/about and have been agreed by our board which is elected by our members.

These values include having the courage to say what we believe and being passionate about delivering diversity and equality.

As director of the MA I am confident that the majority of our members, and in fact the majority of staff that work in museums, would be happy for their institutions to represent, engage with and include diverse communities.

For me the heart of this discussion is a simple question of human rights and ethics. Do we want an honest and open representation of histories that are often deliberately hidden? Do we trust our visitors and volunteers and staff to engage in that discussion and to hear others' views?

The MA's Code of Ethics, voted on and agreed by members, states that the first ethical principle that we work to is public benefit and engagement, and that includes treating everyone equally and with honesty and respect.

I am proud that the MA has supported the London museums contingent on Pride for the past two years. We will continue to support equality, diversity and the capacity for museums to change lives into the future. We are happy to host debate but we won't give way on the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.
11.08.2017, 15:52
Anyone in authority seeking to compromise freedom of conscience amongst those over whom he or she exerts control is an evil tyrant.
The purpose of the museum is to inspire the visitor through the medium of works on display as they reveal both artistically and intellectually the events and cultures of the past. It is not to act as an arm of some undeclared ministry of propaganda dedicated to skewing moral perceptions. The truth shall set you free.
Robin Clarke
Distance Learning Academic Manager, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester
12.08.2017, 17:36
In what sense are they 'skewing moral perception', Damian?
10.08.2017, 15:49
Normal for Norfolk, perhaps?
10.08.2017, 12:53
There are issues here which the MA, and those attacking Mr Hopkins and others, appear to be ignoring. Firstly the family of Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer were NOT supportive of the National Trust's decision to OUT their relative. The fact that the NT decided to go against the families wishes raises serious questions as to how the organisation works with those who have bequeathed the properties, remembering that many of them still live in part of the property.

Those members of staff who chose not to wear the lanyard did so because they supported the family NOT because they were anti the Prejudice and Pride campaign. Both the original act, and the U-Turn, raises questions about how the NT, and other organisation, treats its staff and volunteers and how it deals with issues such as LGBT - an issue which is often whitewashed out of history or rewritten to ignore issues that may upset the pro-LGBT lobby (Gay History Month is a good example where people have been declared gay on the flimsiest of evidence).

This is one of a number of decisions in the past few years where the NT has appeared heavy handed. The more this happens the less good will the NT and other organisations in the heritage sector will have. The MA's comments seem to ignore this issue, thereby doing themselves and the heritage sector a disservice.
10.08.2017, 13:17
Phelim, to begin with (and this may seem pernickity but hear me out) it's LGBT history month, not 'gay history month'. If you are going to critique a month of programming, community engagement and historical inquiry please get this right. It's not just gay men, it's the entire queer community which includes all experiences of non heteronormative gender and sexuality. Might sound silly, but this is important.

Next: You talk of a pro-LGBT lobby... I'd love to meet this lobby. Can you please explain exactly how you can be pro-LGBT? What does this event mean?! Lobby implies a perspective, a political viewpoint on a subject, but LGBTQ+ is not a perspective it is an identity, a way of being. If supporting LGBTQ+ people's right to exist is lobbying then does believing children shouldn't be abused make me a pro-child-lobyist or thinking women are equal to men make me a pro-women-lobyist?

Also when has LGBT history month ever declared that people are gay?! I have never seen this happen. The aim has never been to dig up dead people and stick a label on them. Yes LGBT history month is a time to look at history and collections from a queer eye, but I've never understood the hysteria around this 'Straight until proven guilty' mentality. Talking about the fact that a woman may have slept with another woman or a man may have liked cross-dressing is not besmirching his/her character, it is not trying to declare them gay, it is simply a fair balances appraisal.

Finally, you comment on the families wishes. Let's shift the angle here: If a person were born mixed-race, and this had been hidden due to the historical perception of race at the time, and their family had wanted it hidden... would you support representing this person as white?
Anonymous
10.08.2017, 12:36
The National Trust said all volunteers had to wear the lanyards.

Then they changed its mind.

In doing so they managed to offend absolutely everyone.

So what exactly are the Museums Association backing - the original decision, the U-turn, or somehow both?
Anonymous
10.08.2017, 15:18
I dont think the letter written to the Telegraph is about 'backing' either, it was a comment on the article written by the Telegraph, which was framed in a divisive way and the headline was inflammatory in my opinion, calling it 'a gay campaign' is misleading language.
Anonymous
10.08.2017, 12:27
John Hockley is misguided. It is not the role of the MA to solely 'promote museums' and this is not what they are paid to do. They do far more than that, I've taken a look at the values and mission http://www.museumsassociation.org/about
i.e have the courage to say what we believe, lead change by example, campaigning and advocating for museums who change lives

Standing in solidarity (not a crusade!) with the National Trust, is an important gesture by another national cultural and heritage organisation, when lazy and bias journalism aims to stoke the fires of division.
10.08.2017, 12:30
Totally onboard with this, thank you.
Matthew Williams
Curator, Cardiff Castle
10.08.2017, 12:08
Well said John Hockley.
10.08.2017, 11:56
Dear Anonymous,

I'm afraid you are still missing the point. I am neither for or against the issue I simple say The Museum Association is there to promote museums.THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO DO and nothing else..Straying into any other personal crusade not connected with museums is a potential minefield.
By all means set up an exhibition on the subject and we can all decide if we want to go and view it or not, that will be our individual decision.

John Hockley
10.08.2017, 12:11
'Personal Crusade'...
Standing up for LGBTQ+ people is a crusade?!
I fear we have very definitions of this word.

Also the National Trust is an organisation that supports the exploration and celebration of history and heritage of people across the UK, that is in its mission statement. This includes the history and stories of LGBTQ+ people. So I would argue this is entirely connected with their goals, in fact it is central to them.

Regarding your comment on minefields. Are you suggesting that museums and heritage organisations stay away from tough subjects? Should they stick with cream teas, pretty houses and 'safe' history? If so, then I think it's time for me to leave the sector.
Russell Dornan
Digital Producer, V
10.08.2017, 12:48
"By all means set up an exhibition on the subject and we can all decide if we want to go and view it or not..."

I don't really have the words for this (well, I had a few, but I deleted them). This just feels like another way to say "I don't care what people get up to, as long as they do it behind closed doors."

Behind closed doors is, historically, exactly where a lot of these stories have been told. Thank goodness there are a great many people in the museum and cultural sectors with the humanity and respect to proudly share these stories with mainstream audiences.

It's just a shame such regressive views from the few are causing any kind of backlash at all.
10.08.2017, 12:38
Totally agree with you, Sarah! Well said! I am quite saddened by the responses here, very ignorant. As the article says, "Museums should feel confident in recognising and celebrating LGBT history" and indeed, should feel confident in being able to celebrate everyone's history and not the select few.
10.08.2017, 12:42
Sacha* Sorry!
10.08.2017, 12:16
*very different definitions
(Clearly too amped up to type properly!)
Anonymous
10.08.2017, 10:28
I think this is a very difficult issue. Ketton-Cremer himself I gather was completely silent over his personal life, as, in his day, he'd probably feel compelled to be, so as not to risk arrest and disgrace. The prejudices faced by gay people in the past were documented brilliantly in the recent Tate Queer British Art exhibition, but must never be under-estimated.

We don't know whether, if Ketton-Cremer had lived today, he would have been out or not, Were the volunteers who refused to wear the rainbow badge just acknowledging and respecting his own silence over his sexuality, and thus protesting at him being 'outed' as it were? It depends whether one goes with a viewpoint belonging to the past or the present. Today the risks of being out in the UK are vastly lower than in the past, the social implications are, in many if not all, cases, minimal to non-existent. We can't know if Ketton-Cremer's view would have been remotely the same if he had lived today. He may have been longing to feel able to be open about his life, or he may have been OK with things as they were. We know that gay people in the past espoused both sets of views depending on their circumstances.

People now have the choice either to celebrate the person he really was, ie gay even if he never said so, or to maintain what would have been his wish during his lifetime given the circumstances, to keep quiet. I don't think either choice is right or wrong. We just have to say thank goodness things have changed these days, and acknowledge and celebrate that there were always gay people around, however silent they may have been, in stately homes or elsewhere.
10.08.2017, 10:25
The Nation Trust and the MA have completely missed the point.over the Gay Issue. Yes it's wrong to discriminate against anybody's particular belief but to actively promote a particular cause is not their job. The NT looks after our heritage and the MA our museums. Who actually decides which cause to back?how about UKIP or even The Monster Raving Looney Party ? The answer is "You can wear any badge you like at work" but this is not the policy of the company. Don't forget some companies have attempted to ban religious crosses.
John Hockley
10.08.2017, 12:15
LGBTQ+ people, their identities and stories are not a cause.
They are also not a political party, an ideology or a belief system.

Backing LGBTQ+ people and history is about supporting human rights and the right to exist. I find it highly concerning that you would even begin to conflate these things.
Russell Dornan
Digital Producer, V
10.08.2017, 12:38
Amen, Sacha!

This is about inclusion and representation, not beliefs or causes; it shouldn't need to be justified or fought for...not anymore, surely?

I'm alarmed at some of the "discussions" taking place around this, but at least it highlights how valuable projects like these are and how much they're, sadly, still very much required.
Anonymous
09.08.2017, 19:59
This issue reminds me of how television companies seem to force everyone who appears on our 'screens' to wear a poppy in the run-up to Remembrance Day each November. Wearing your beliefs on your sleeves may make some people feel good, but not everyone is comfortable with that approach. Others might be preferred to be judged on how they act rather than what they wear. Of course, some will, in this case, just be homophobic and hopefully they will learn something from this year's events and may be even change their views.
Anonymous
11.08.2017, 15:05
Might I raise an issue which seems to have been overlooked? Both the National Trust and the MA are treading on dangerous ground here in respect of the Equality Act 2010. If the volunteers who declined to wear badges and lanyards promoting a sexual orientation other than their own, and did so because of their own sexual orientation (which includes heterosexual), and were then discriminated against by being removed from their normal duties, then they could have a case against the National Trust under the Equality Act 2010, Part 2, Chapter 1, Sections 4, 11 and 12; and Chapter 2, Section 13. The law is: 'A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others'.

The MA represents not only museums but individuals working in museums.

J Michael Phillips, AMA
11.08.2017, 22:30
The volunteers, as the article already explained, were not made to wear the badges. Where exactly is the discrimination in that? NT are very safe in their actions.

Additionally, the volunteers 'claimed' that it was a matter of disagreeing with the NT's decision to disclose that Robert Wyndham Ketton-Creme was gay. So there isn't a case at all over the volunteers sexual orientation by that token.
11.08.2017, 22:43
- in terms of "normal duties" volunteers typically have set tasks determined by what needs to be done, so that's a grey area at best. They were still able to carry out other, normal, duties - just not the front-facing ones. That is a good compromise for those volunteering who don't support the NT's values. I think it's pretty obvious that the volunteers were the ones practising discrimination.
11.08.2017, 15:19
So being heterosexual is now a protected characteristic...

The entire point of that legislation is to protect minorities and underrepresented peoples. Not as a loophole to allow heterosexual people the right to openly display bigotry. The fact that the equality act is being flipped round to try and silence minority representation is incredibly disturbing to me.
Anonymous
11.08.2017, 16:01
Dear Sacha,
Thank you for your response. Heterosexuality has always been a protected characteristic, stated in the Equality Act 2010, Part 2, Chapter 1, 12. (1)(b). The stated purpose of the Act, inter alia, was : 'to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct'.

I express no personal opinion on this matter: I simply draw attention to what the law says.

J Michael Phillips AMA