Simon Stephens, Issue 118/02, p4, 01.02.2018
Dissenting voices bring about change
The theme of this year’s Museums Association (MA) Conference is Dissent: Inspiring Hope – Embracing Change. The event, which takes place in Belfast in November, will explore how the sector can benefit from radical, innovative and disruptive ideas that lead to positive change.

This year is the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which allowed some women, and all men, in the UK to vote for the first time. This change, which paved the way for women to have equal voting rights with men 10 years later, was brought about by the dissenting voices and militancy of the suffragette movement. Museums and galleries all over the country will be running exhibitions and events to mark the centenary, many of which we will cover in future issues of Museums Journal.

To tie in with the MA Conference in Belfast, we will also be covering more recent examples of dissent, and how museum professionals are organising themselves to bring about the change that they want to see.

Museum Detox, which had a strong presence at last year’s MA Conference in Manchester, is a great example of this. This network of black, Asian and minority ethnic museum professionals has been working hard to challenge stereotypes and bring about change through empowerment and solidarity.

Also reflecting an important issue in wider society, specifically the #MeToo movement, museum professionals have been raising concerns about sexist attitudes and sexual harassment in the sector.

And dissent is not just about looking inwards – it is also about finding ways to give audiences a voice in the way in which our museums are run and the stories they tell. In this issue, we have reviews of two community-led exhibitions: The Past is Now at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Who Decides? at National Museum Cardiff.

We need ambitious new approaches such as these if we are to serve our audiences better and move the sector forward. Dissenting voices are often what lead to change.

The deadline to submit session ideas for the MA Conference in Belfast is 1 March. Make sure your voice is heard by making a proposal.

Simon Stephens, editor, Museums Journal