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‘Not a passing phase’: British museum organization doubles down on ‘antiracism’

Core funds have been reserved for work on anti-racism

The Museums Association, a London professional organization, said it can do much more to transform itself into an “anti-racist organization.”

“It is over three years since the murder of George Floyd sent a visceral shock around the globe,” Director Sharon Heal wrote in a blog post this month. “At the Museums Association…we doubled down on our efforts to support the wider sector to address the legacy of empire, including racism, in museums.”

“As part of our efforts to support the work we published the Supporting Decolonisation in Museums guidance, launched online training modules on anti-racism and decolonisation, and we are now coming to the end of the first iteration of our Decolonisation Confidence and Skills programme,” stated Heal (pictured).

It is not enough, however, to simply link collections and systems of empire; this work “can sometimes only skim the surface of the deep thinking and rigorous work that needs to be done.”

The Museums Organization is “as much a product of empire as the museums we represent.” In the past decade, the Museums Association has become less curatorial, more “campaigning and values-led.”

“We know that museums can be a force for good and our campaigns on social impact, anti-racism and climate justice are just some of the ways that we try to support our members to make a positive difference to people’s lives,” Heal wrote.

However, framing such work as “campaigns” implies that they are time-bound; in reality, this work must be woven tightly into institution’s fabric, according to Heal.

The association has made a sizable commitment to “anti-racist” efforts:

This year, £20,000 of core funds has been reserved for work on anti-racism; we have a staff member dedicated to anti-racism and decolonisation; we have senior leadership and trustee engagement; and we have made decolonisation a central plank of our review of the Code of Ethics.

This work, Heal asserts, must be “rigorous, deep and embedded.” It must “take an intersectional approach,” because “anti-racism, decolonisation, climate justice and many other issues are interlinked.”

The staff is “determined” to “embed the decolonisation principles in all aspects of our work at the MA, from professional development to funding,” she stated.

“This is not a passing phase.”

MORE: Tufts University offers ‘Anti-Racist Curatorial Practices’ certificate

IMAGE: European Forum Museum

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