In May 2020, Cornwall Museums Partnership recognised the need for institutional change regarding anti-racist work, both in the museum sector and in wider society.
We wanted to find a way to embed and operationalise anti-racism and decolonial work, beyond statements on social media.
In July last year, we published our Equity Action Plan, which sets out our stance as actively anti-racist, inclusive and anti-colonial.
We acknowledge that:
- Museums can be places of historic and contemporary racism, colonial violence, misogyny, classism and oppression.
- Structures of power in society have enabled the silencing of minority groups and that some museums are complicit in this.
- The museum sector’s traditional employment practices have been and continue to be biased and exclusionary, and need to be transformed.
Historically, our organisation has reflected these inequalities, and we need to alter these biases in our workforce, partnerships and governance.
We have also reflected on our international responsibility as a charity and our business plan sets out our commitment to the UN Global Goals, including Goal 16 “to promote peace, justice and strong institutions”.
Our purpose is to create positive social change with museums; we recognise the power of museums and cultural institutions to influence how society functions. We have not completed our anti-racism journey and never expect to.
What impact have we seen? Our Equity Action Plan is a regular item on team meeting agendas. This allows us to discuss challenges, find solutions, celebrate progress and share resources with each other.
At board level, our new recruitment practices resulted in Cornwall Museums Partnership receiving 22 applications, more than 60% of which were from people identifying with at least one of the protected characteristics we listed in our advertising. This included young trustees, people of colour, disabled people and other marginalised groups.
We recognise that our progress might not be groundbreaking, but we are sincere in our long-term commitment to realising systemic change and embedding anti-racism institutionally in our work and partnerships.
Over the past 12 months, we have implemented the following actions:
- Piloting inclusive recruitment processes for trustees and staff. This includes FAQ videos for prospective applicants; adopting the Jobcentre Plus guaranteed interview scheme (an applicant who is disabled or is a care leaver that demonstrates they meet the essential requirements of an advertised position is entitled to an interview and will be considered on merit); and anonymous shortlisting.
- Amplifying non-white voices through our training programme and Twitter takeovers (for example, #RDNetwork last August).
- Building a meaningful collaborative relationship with Black Voices Cornwall, supporting its organisational development and brokering relationships with our partner museums. This includes signing its Race Charter and supporting the display and tour of its The Silence is Deafening exhibition.
- Securing funding to support a partnership project with Black Voices Cornwall and the Black British Museum to collect and amplify contemporary and historic stories of Black experiences in Cornwall.
- Providing networking, learning and discussion opportunities for museums in Cornwall at events such as a Cornwall virtual leg of Dan Hicks’ Brutish Museums book tour, and the webinar Decolonisation: Where do I Begin? with curator and historian Tehmina Goskar and archivist Shreya Sharma.
- Investing in online abuse training for our team, especially those who manage our digital presence or are active professionally on social media.
- Collecting, analysing and reporting workforce diversity data, including of volunteers, freelancers and consultants.
- Challenging discrimination and using our privilege to advocate for policy change.
- Reaching the conclusion of our three-year action research project, Citizen Curators, led by Goskar, exploring the role of cultural democracy in museum volunteering programmes.
Charlotte Morgan is the collaborative programmes manager at Cornwall Museums Partnership