Mark O'Neill confirmed as keynote at MA Conference 2012

Geraldine Kendall, 11.07.2012
Glasgow Life's policy director to address social inequality in speech
Mark O’Neill, director of policy and research at Glasgow Life, has been confirmed as the latest keynote speaker at this year’s Museums Association Conference in Edinburgh.

In his keynote speech, O’Neill said he plans to look at where museums stand in the struggle for social justice and question their commitment to access in the “new age of inequality”.

The government’s abandonment of access targets and the cuts brought about by the recession have given museums a clear choice, according to O’Neill: “We are either working to embed access at the core of everything we do or we are increasing the current levels of inequality and injustice.”  

O’Neill is critical of the museum sector, saying many museums that were once established to benefit society as a whole have abandoned their founding principles and been taken over by “professional and cultural elites”.

“Making the well-off and well-educated feel that they deserve their privileges became the intrinsic purpose of these museums,” he said. “They set standards and generate peer pressure on curators to resist access.”

Even museums that are committed to access rarely move beyond symbolic projects to engage small numbers of target groups, O’Neill said, with many failing to capitalise on Renaissance funding to bring about real change.

He said: “Unless access is embedded in the core, no amount of outreach, no accumulation of small projects, will make a real difference.”

O’Neill has worked in the Glasgow museum sector since 1985, leading the creation of two new museums and the renovation of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum during that time. He has published and lectured widely on museum philosophy and practice.

The keynote address will take place at 9am on Friday 9 November.

The MA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2012 runs at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on Thursday 8 November and Friday 9 November. An early bird discount is available to everyone booking before 30 August.

Click here to book your place