Our response to the DCMS contested heritage meeting on 23 February
24 February 2021
The Museums Association unreservedly supports work to decolonise museums and their collections and to broaden and deepen our understanding of the legacy of empire and slavery.
We are therefore concerned about the government’s perceived interference in this area of museum work in England. It is both a hallmark of a democratic society and a cornerstone of museum ethics that our sector should operate at arm’s length from the government.
Museums must be able to carry out research and inquiry into all areas of history – it is not for ministers to dictate what constitutes a legitimate subject for investigation or what the outcome of that research might be.
It is vital that the government consults widely with the sector – including with the Museums Association – before proceeding with its proposal to produce guidelines on ‘contested heritage’.
The Museums Association has already convened a sector-wide Decolonisation Guidance Working Group which will continue to provide guidance and support for individuals and institutions.
We are particularly concerned that a climate of fear has been created amongst museums and museum staff, especially those working on subjects relating to Britain’s imperial past, and we support the rights of everyone working on these issues to do so free of interference, threats and intimidation.