Voxpop: What next for decolonisation?

Last year saw the issue of decolonisation increase in visibility as pressure grew on museums to address the colonial legacies of their institutions. Initiatives include the Museums Association (MA) Ethics Committee launching a working group to produce practical guidance on decolonisation. And the issue will be among the subjects being tackled at the forthcoming MA Future of Museums: Curation conference on 25 March at the Wellcome Collection, London

31012020-errolErrol Francis, artistic director and CEO, Culture& 

“The first step is to agree a meaning because the term is being abused and has become subject to revisionism. Decolonisation means giving up power and ceding territory. So, applied to the UK heritage sector, decolonisation should involve increasing accessibility by diversifying the workforce and expanding audiences to reflect the diversity of our communities. Paramount to an effective engagement with decolonisation is the tackling of the dubious provenance of objects in our collections either through repatriation or reparation. Anything less is a distortion of the word ‘decolonisation’.”

30012020 stephen welshStephen Welsh, curator of living culture, Manchester Museum

“We need to further challenge, disrupt and transform western colonial modes of curation, which were established to analyse, catalogue, display and preserve objects and specimens in isolation from countries of origin, diaspora communities and traditional owners. Such practices continue to inflict loss, trauma and exclusion on those people and places most intimately connected with collections. This is a collective endeavour; it can only be done in partnership and will require a deepening commitment to healing, reconciliation and inclusion. We need bolder action to embed this.”

31012020 Liam WisemanLiam Wiseman, relationship manager, museums, ACE

“It’s clear that the conversation about decolonisation has been approaching a critical mass in the past few years, and it’s now in the public realm. There is definitely appetite for increased decolonial practice but also a lack of guidance for how to go about it. This year, Arts Council England (ACE) will be working on guidance for decolonisation alongside the Museums Association, as well as producing updated guidance on restitution of cultural objects. Museums can be catalysts for real change, and the sector should embrace the opportunities that decolonisation will bring.”


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26.05.2020, 12:09
Interesting comments. I wanted to add to the voice of anonymous. I'm presently writing a book for Routledge " Ancient Indigenous Human Remains: The Law". I've raised the term repatriation which is the end game of decolonisation of museums. I've introduced the term rematriation which links in with the comment from anonymous. Furthermore I still believe that museums unless they drastically change are the "Moat around the Colonial Castle". Article to follow with that title shortly.
14.02.2020, 10:09
Powerful words that I hope more and more practitioners and institutions will reflect on. But when I read "Decolonisation means giving up power and ceding territory" I can't help but notice the irony that all three opinions in this column came from men. Decolonisation without intersectionality is an empty promise!