Museums are not neutral. Museum activism should be based on listening, acting and delivering with our communities.
A case study from the Journey to Justice travelling exhibition
People want to be involved in making change in their communities, but it can feel hard. Stories from the past of unsung, ‘ordinary’ people whose action succeeded can generate hope, confidence and understanding of how change is possible. We find and share those stories, hoping they will galvanise action.
We began with stories from the US civil rights movement such as the gay Black pacifist activist who organised the March on Washington and a working-class single mother in the projects who became an anti-poverty activist. Our travelling exhibition took these stories around 15 places in the UK, working with local partners who researched and also displayed hidden local histories, organising linked events.
This exhibition has inspired me to get more involved in campaigning.
Now the whole exhibition is online and, with it, over 100 little-known local histories of activism including Romani football in Sheffield, LGBT activism in Nottingham, anti-deportation kids in Newham, abolitionism in Sunderland, living wage in Lambeth, anti-fascism in Newcastle, radical fashion in Brent, disabled sports in Liverpool, revolutionary ceramics in Bristol, Irish music in Birmingham and rich interweaving timelines of struggle in Bristol.
We came to see how deep economic inequality underpins so much injustice in this country. Our new project includes filmed stories by people with lived experience of poverty who have used innovative ways to address this. We also have experts in their field discussing underlying causes of economic injustice and activists sharing examples of successful tactics to achieve change.
This has made me want to do more for people I love.
Together these two projects form an online museum of 500 years of activism by everyday people changing our world for the better. Journey to Justice is now using the projects to galvanise action for change among wider audiences.
The online exhibition is at on the Journey to Justice website.
The economic (in)justice resources are on the Economic Justice website.
To find out what happened when the exhibition toured go to the Journey to Justice exhibitions page and click on each location.
Journey to Justice won the Activist Museum Award 2020 from the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the University of Leicester.