Ulster Transport Museum. Image: Wikimedia commons

Ulster Transport Museum to revisit interpretation after sexism complaint

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 04.04.2019
Newspaper columnist raised concerns about panel on “the woman driver”
Ulster Transport Museum is to reassess its interpretation following a sexism complaint from the Scotsman reporter and columnist Jane Bradley.

Bradley raised the issue to the museum's staff during a visit after seeing an information board that described how “the woman driver uses the car for… numerous short journeys such as food shopping and ferrying children to school and non-school activities”. 

She also raised concerns about another display panel that described how toy cars “reflect the imagination, values and products of a male-dominated society”, and were “key gender items in the toy industry”. 

In a subsequent column in the Scotsman, Bradley said she was unhappy with the museum’s response to her complaint. She wrote: “What they said, when I got an email back from their visitor service manager, was that they had passed my comments to someone in their ‘development and engagement team’. Which is museum-speak for the fact that they have notched it up as ‘annoying customer complaint’.”

At the time of writing her column, she said she had not received a response to a follow-up query on whether action would be taken.

Describing the impact of the sexism in the text, Bradley said: “It is a drip-feed situation which constantly chips away at girls’ confidence. Tell a five-year-old that she should only drive to the shops and you end up with yet another generation of young women who do not see themselves as tomorrow’s mechanics, automotive engineers or Formula One racing drivers.”

A spokeswoman from National Museums Northern Ireland (NMNI), which runs the Hollywood museum, said it would “revisit” the specific issues raised by Bradley in the short term, and was planning a strategic review of its interpretation in the longer term. 

The spokeswoman said NMNI was “currently in communication with the visitor”. 

She added: “We recognise that some of the current interpretation in the Ulster Transport Museum - the car gallery in particular - has been in place for some time and is not in keeping with some of our newer gallery developments and programming, in which diversity and inclusivity are fundamental to our approach, with multiple perspectives both represented and celebrated.
“In meeting the challenge of staying relevant to today’s society, our organisational strategy is to renew and refresh interpretation and undertake proactive and inclusive collections development at all four of our museums. This will be a strategic, holistic and long-term approach. In the shorter-term, however, we will revisit the specific interpretive issues that the complaint has raised.”


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17.04.2019, 16:59
It just made me laugh out loud that you have a whole article about sexism and yet you still use the term "spokeswomen"?!? What is wrong with spokesperson or is it important that we know the gender of the person making the statement?
24.04.2019, 11:02
Hi Laura,
The use of 'spokeswoman' instead of 'spokesperson' is part of our in-house style guide and is standard practice at many other publications. I do agree we should be interrogating traditional ways in which we use language, and perhaps the guide itself is due a review. My question would be: is it sexist in itself to identify someone's gender if there's no other value judgement attached? And does that mean we should also do away with gendered pronouns like he/she?
22.05.2019, 10:53
Hi Geraldine, I would question the relevant of identifying someone gender, does us knowing its a women responding to the complaint alter our view? Whilst you may not be placing a value judgement others might. And in terms of should you do away with gendered pronouns then yes! in fact you already do if you quote a named individual as you then go on to refer to them by surname. Thanks Laura