Museums & Galleries Edinburgh
Collecting Black Lives Matter
For some years, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh has undertaken contemporary collecting work to reflect current events and changes in the city. This work took on extra meaning in 2020 when, in the live environment of a pandemic, we collected hundreds of placards from a protest, part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As a local authority museum service, it is important for us to represent our community, and to reflect on global issues at a local level. This collecting project allows us to reckon with the former – addressing the failures in our practice to date – and continue to deliver the latter.
Collecting a significant quantity of activist material during a lockdown posed many challenges, and it was only through the support of the activist donors – the protest organisers themselves – that we were able to collect such a wealth of valuable material. The project was delivered using core budget and existing staff time.
We believe collections like these placards are critical tools in Edinburgh’s social life. They provide us with the means to engage in debate and inspire discussion among our local audiences, contributing to discourse around Edinburgh’s past involvement in slavery and its ramifications for the city today. The collection also demonstrates the long history and continuing important role of protest and activism in the city.
Our focus with this project has been on engagement. Despite changing Covid restrictions, we have been able to share and celebrate these important objects in real time as we continue to curate them. We’ve had to change how we work to facilitate this but it has meant our work is all the better for it.