Museums, Heritage and Black Lives Matter
As a result of the BLM protests, statues and heritage became the focus of the discussion after the toppling of a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol on June 7th 2020. Colston was a slave trader who made his money through the Royal African Company (RAC). The RAC sold 100,000 West African people in the Caribbean and the Americas in the 17th century and branded them with the RAC initials on their chests. The statue was installed in 1895 to commemorate Colston’s philanthropy. A group of protestors pulled down the statue and threw it in the harbour in protest. Before it was forcibly removed, a campaign group called Countering Colston, had campaigned for the statue to be removed and called for an end of the public celebration of a figure so heavily involved in the slave trade and colonialism. Further calls for other statues to be removed have since been made.
Edward Colston. Image from FreeImages.com
This has led to a wider discussion about the role of museums and heritage and what is being commemorated. For many years within the museum community there has been many discussions about what kinds of objects museums hold and where they came from, with many linking back to the time of colonialism. There have been efforts to decolonise collections and repatriate objects that were stolen from other countries during the time of Empires. This is not just an issue in the UK, but across the world. There is also the need to ensure that interpretation (the way we tell stories and histories) of objects includes the true history of an object, its links to often uncomfortable and painful subjects and ensures the voices of people who represent these communities are included.
At The Peace Museum, we are committed to ensuring that we follow the Code of Ethics for museums as set out by the Museums Association and that we actively co-produce and co-curate our exhibitions with the communities our collections represent. We are aware that there are gaps in our collection and that our staff, trustee and volunteer bodies need to be more diverse and representative of the communities of the UK. We are working on a new updated Equality Action Plan. We welcome critical friends who can provide us with feedback and help us shape the work that we do. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss this further.
Image: Statement put out on twitter by The Peace Museum in response to the murder of George Floyd in the US and the ongoing BLM movement.
You can read more about what museums are doing in response to Black Lives Matter here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-53219869
If you would like to learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement and what you can do, we have compiled some resources made by other organisations;
Image Banner Credit: Extinction Rebellion St Just.