The policy column | Addressing the power struggle

Issue 120/02, 01.02.2020
When deciding the theme for our annual conference, we work with colleagues in the host nation to take stock of what’s happening in the wider world and look at how museums are responding. 

For this year’s conference in Edinburgh, we’ve looked at the huge amount of change in the UK over the past five years, including three general elections, a referendum, the dissolution and reconstitution of the Northern Irish assembly, the increasing wealth gap and the climate crisis.  

Over the next few years, we will have to face up to the impact of Brexit, a possible independence referendum in Scotland and more pressure on museum funding.

Bearing that in mind, we asked what theme and content can we produce that will help us explore these challenging issues? Museum activism is on the rise and conversations about the ethics of repatriation, sponsorship and how we work with our communities and treat staff will be at the fore over the next year. Decolonisation, diversity and inclusion, and what we do with our collections when we have too much stuff, also merit attention. 

The common denominator is power. Who has the power to decide what we collect and how we interpret it? How do we relinquish power to our communities? And what are the power dynamics within the institution and how do we develop different models of leadership and governance? 

The theme for conference 2020 is: Power to the People – Democratising our Museums. We hope this sums it up.