Tate Exchange

Tate launches drive to make displays more inclusive

Patrick Steel, 01.08.2018
Public invited to critique language and perspective of interpretation texts
Tate has launched a new initiative to invite feedback on its interpretation texts in order to make them more inclusive.

The initiative, entitled  Talking About Our Collection, asks members of the public to identify text that “overlooks or misrepresents an important perspective, or uses language which you suggest we should improve or change”.

“Although we review our texts on an ongoing basis, we wanted to make this process more open, visible and inclusive,” said a spokeswoman for the gallery. “This is an important part of becoming a genuinely inclusive space and ensuring our collection remains relevant to people from all backgrounds, communities and lived experiences.”

Concerns raised by the gallery's BAME staff network helped to inform the new approach to interpretation, according to Hassan Vawda, Tate's coordinator (guides programme) and a member of the network. He said that although similar concerns had been raised before, the new initiative would allow feedback to “travel faster and carry more weight with decision-makers” as Tate strives to become “a less vertical institution”.

The team guiding the work is drawn from departments across the Tate, and each text and the feedback received about it “will be considered on its own merits”, according to the gallery's spokeswoman.

Sara Wajid, the head of engagement at the Museum of London and the founder of Museum Detox, a network for BAME museum professionals, tweeted: “Unprecedented. @MuseumDetox Let's use this chance @Tate.”

But Alice Procter, an art historian and the founder of Uncomfortable Art Tours, tweeted that the gallery was trying to “perform diversity without actually addressing its structural inequalities, outsourcing the emotional work and perpetuating hierarchies of knowledge without actually critiquing itself”.

Vawda described the move as an “initial step in a series of developing initiatives”. He said it was part of an “honest, decisive, and long-term commitment to addressing representation in the way we talk about the collection, histories and exclusion/inclusion”, that will not only look at the representation of artworks, but also address “the representation of voices included in the decision-making”.

Tate also invites and responds to feedback from visitors in its galleries, via its website and on social media.

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