Decolonising principles - Museums Association

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Decolonising principles

Decolonising museums is an ethical commitment. Here we outline principles to support decolonising practice. Using these alongside existing frameworks, such as our Code of Ethics and Culture&’s Black Lives Matter Charter, can offer direction and support. These principles apply to everyone working in and with museums, at all levels.

We encourage you to use these principles individually and with your colleagues, considering what they mean for your work.

01. Challenge neutrality

Museums are not neutral and never have been. The notion of neutrality maintains power and silences the experiences and histories of many. To challenge neutrality is to recognise that colonial values and biases are embedded in many museums. Challenging neutrality can ensure museums mean more, for more people.

02. Acknowledge power and privilege

Challenge structural inequalities and all forms of intolerance, discrimination and marginalisation.

03. Build relationships

Grow sustainable, meaningful and equitable relationships with those who are underrepresented and misrepresented within museums.

04. Value all forms of knowledge and expertise equally

Build knowledge through the exchange of ideas, and value it as you would institutional knowledge. Narratives have multiple perspectives and are not fixed.

05. Be brave

Sometimes ethical practice may not align with traditional ‘best practice’ standards. Be ready to challenge norms and encourage taking risks within your institution.

06. Be accountable

Be transparent about museum practices. Admit the challenges involved, invite and be open to scrutiny, take responsibility and commit to learning and growth.

07. Do the work

Decolonisation is active, long-term work, which requires sustained action and resourcing. Go beyond the thinking to the doing.

08. Take care

Care for yourself and all those who are part of this work.

09. Be creative

Doing the same things will get the same results. Work differently, be imaginative and inspired in creating meaningful change.

10. Aim for justice

Remember who you are doing this for and why. Work with them to achieve justice on their terms.