Who should control the power to represent? - Museums Association

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Who should control the power to represent?

Museum X founder Sandra Shakespeare reflects on 2021
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Sandra Shakespeare
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Stuart Hall’s seminal 1999 keynote speech at a conference organised jointly by the then Arts Council for England and North West Arts Board.

Given the precarious positionality of museums and the harsh realities of our social political context of 2021, the government’s ‘culture war’ has fired open a rage against the machine. If decolonisation and anti-racism practices are a mirror to creating organisational changemaking, is it less about asking for representation and more about our collective power to truly regain?

In March this year, I set up a community interest company, Museum X CIC - home to the Black British Museum Project. Museum X exists to work with people for the creation of a museum dedicated to culture and heritage from the African diaspora.

Museum X worked with the team at Museums Journal as guest editors for a Black British Museum September takeover edition. The edition featured contributors from the UK, Africa, the Caribbean, and US. I’m proud of our team effort and the global connections made through the edition. It was important that the edition also served as a platform to showcase different ways of working collaboratively with museums – creating shifts towards organisational and societal change.

I admire the fantastic achievements of Culture&’s Whose Heritage? Research Residency Programme. A national research residency programme inspired by the works of Hall. Nine emerging researchers were successfully recruited to work over a period of time with museums and heritage organisations.

Residencies were designed to challenge outdated narratives held in collections and sites of heritage to regain new forms of interpretation. Researchers were supported to provide critical analysis presented through a series of digital project research reports.

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Museum X enters 2022 working on an exciting film collaboration with Cornwall Museums Partnership and Black Voices Cornwall.  The film aims to capture the voices of local people as they explore and reflect on stories of connections with Black British history in Cornwall Museum’ collections.

I’m excited about the future of possibilities for the creation of a Black British museum exploring intangible (as defined by Unesco) or living heritage. It’s time to experiment in spaces where we can regain the power of connections through our stories, sites and collections. With Museum X our funders and supporting partners, we’ll do just that.

Sandra Shakespeare, founder director, Museum X CIC

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The Museum X takeover issue

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