Social justice - Museums Association

Museums have a responsibility to work with their communities to overcome the challenges of poverty and exclusion and to achieve equality of outcomes.

A case study from National Museums Liverpool

Following the killing of George Floyd, National Museums Liverpool (NML) released a statement condemning his racist murder and calling for change. Beyond words, NML set up a steering group with colleagues from across the organisation, to ensure Black Lives Matter activity is embedded in everything we do.

As our museums and galleries reopened, a visible statement about the organisation’s stance on Black Lives Matter was displayed across all sites. We set up an email address dedicated to Black Lives Matter, encouraging visitors to get in touch if NML’s interpretation, collections or language should be changed.

A Black Lives Matter resource webpage has been created, platforming Liverpool’s Black experience, sharing relevant literature and podcasts, and providing information on how to support the movement locally.

The ongoing activity of the International Slavery Museum continues to be a vehicle for social justice at the forefront of museum activism, community engagement and inclusion. For many decades, NML has worked with Black communities and organisations to collaborate, engage and co-create.

Communities are taking part in recent online events and discussions, and NML has joined a city-wide education partnership addressing the lack of Black British history in the national curriculum. The World Museum’s World Cultures gallery is moving away from displays that segregate peoples into distinct cultures, towards displays addressing global issues and ideas.

NML is working in collaboration with Black-led creative industries, including educators, poets, artists, filmmakers and comedians, to change which stories are told and how they are shared.

The recent appointment of a Historian in Residence represents a significant step to ensuring we embed an understanding of the history and legacies of slavery across all our museums and galleries. We’re also establishing a repatriation policy that recognises the importance of returning objects, which can heal and revitalise community relationships and trust.