Supporting Decolonisation in Museums - Museums Association

Supporting Decolonisation in Museums

Our new guidance, Supporting Decolonisation in Museums, aims to empower more people to take action and lead change as museums address the legacy of British colonialism.

This guidance has been produced by our Decolonisation Guidance Working Group, with support from our Ethics Committee and a range of critical friends. It was developed following the findings of our 2019 Empowering Collections report which recognised the growing interest in decolonising museums, but a lack of confidence in how to put this into practice.  

Supporting Decolonisation in Museums covers all areas of practice, with sections on collaboration, collections, workforce and more. The guidance offers prompts for thinking, discussion and action, recognising there is no single ‘right’ way to decolonise museums.  It is intended to help people from across the museum sector to engage with decolonising practice, regardless of size or type of institution.  

Working to collaboratively create a resource to support museums to be aware of the effects of the legacy of colonialism and to actively pursue decolonial practice has been an exciting and rewarding learning experience. The working group members generously shared their knowledge and experience and challenged one another throughout this process. I’m excited to keep learning and growing with the wider sector as they engage with this tool.

Rachael Minott, Chair, Decolonisation Guidance Working Group

“The MA is proud to have developed this guidance in collaboration with colleagues from across the museum sector. Many museums are already working on addressing the legacy of colonialism by rethinking their displays and collections and by working with communities in the UK and abroad. At a time when this history is under more scrutiny than ever, it is vital that museums engage in these discussions and reappraise their own historical role in empire. We will continue to work with museums to support them on this journey.”

Sharon Heal, Director, Museums Association

I believe this document is one of the most important we’ve published at the Museums Association. It speaks decisively to our values to lead with courage, champion diversity and equity, work collaboratively, inclusively and ethically, and to campaign for social justice. It also provides the practical tools and guidance that our members across the UK have told us they need to undertake this critical work with confidence. I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in developing Supporting Decolonisation in Museums and look forward to learning how the guidance and its supporting events, resources and peer learning opportunities change museum practice and approaches in the future.

Gillian Findlay, President, Museums Association 

Announcing our Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme 

We are also pleased to announce our new Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme with funding from a consortium of four funding organisations – Art Fund, the John Ellerman Foundation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.  

This programme will help museums to use the guidance and implement decolonising practice in their work through the creation of new networks, events and online resources. Further details on the Decolonising Confidence and Skills programme will be announced in 2022.

“We are proud to support this important UK-wide programme led by the Museums Association. It will enable museum and gallery professionals to develop the skills, confidence and expertise to explore our nation’s complex history more fully, through investigation into and interpretation of their collections. Museums and galleries are uniquely placed to tell unheard stories in ways that engage and inspire the many communities they serve, and we hope that this initiative will support them with this.” 

Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme funders

Image: Maasai representatives and Pitt Rivers Museum staff working together on the care of sacred Maasai objects. © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

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