Four projects have been named as the winners of the Activist Museum Award 2021-2022 by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG), part of the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies.
The award was launched in 2019 to “celebrate and foster activist thinking and practice in the UK museum community”. The winners are awarded £1,000 each and tailored mentorship to support the development of their ideas.
The winners of the third round are:
Arts educator Jean Campbell will use the award to develop a series of podcasts and zines exploring and critically reviewing the design, delivery and experiences of Trans-Atlantic slavery staff training.
They will reflect on the range of difficult emotional responses that people who work with these themes have to navigate with themselves, objects and audiences.
The panel recognised the enormous impact of Jean’s work to date and agreed with her that ‘acknowledging such training as activism brings it into alignment with a critical time for museums as they look back at the impact of their anti-racism work and reflect on how they might do things better’.
Museum of Homelessness
The Museum of Homelessness is a community-driven, social justice museum, created and run by people with direct experience of homelessness. The award will support “Leave our Neighbours Alone – how to beat the hostile environment” – two days of solidarity space in Glasgow and London that highlight, celebrate and connect the work of individuals, campaigners, communities and lawyers in challenging and winning against hate.
The project aims to bring people together and create a sense of solidarity and hope, as well as disseminate the learnings of research carried out by the museum in 2021.
People's History Museum
The People’s History Museum in Manchester has been working with campaigning organisations such as Together with Refugees to increase awareness of the Nationality and Borders Bill and how proposed change to it will impact on refugees and asylum seekers coming to Britain.
The award will support it to deepen its commitment to being an activist museum by actively engaging refugee communities through conversations, events and other activities.
A programme of training and a space for staff to test their skills will enable the museum to empower its workforce to become campaign advocates, “with the skills and confidence to proactively engage people with campaigning work and facilitate discussions about associated issues”.
Digital story studio Fast Familiar will use its award to help deliver The Acquisitions Panel, a participatory artwork about the legacies of European colonialism that asks who gets to choose the stories we tell.
The experience uses the case of a specific object as a prism to explore the non-neutrality of museums and to ask what role we want them to play in our increasingly fractured society.
This year’s judging panel was: Sara Wajid, co-chief executive officer of Birmingham Museums Trust; Ross Parry, profession of museum technology at the University of Leicester; Jocelyn Dodd, professor of museums and social change at the University of Leicester; and Richard Sandell, professor of museum studies and co-director of RCMG.
Jean Campbell, the Museum of Homelessness, the People’s History Museum and Fast Familiar will be invited to showcase their work and share the findings of their projects with students, researchers and practitioners from across the cultural sector at an event on 9 November 2022.