The last two decades have seen concerns for equality, diversity, social justice and human rights move from the margins of museum thinking and practice, to the core. The arguments – both moral and pragmatic – for engaging diverse audiences, creating the conditions for more equitable access to museum resources, and opening up opportunities for participation, now enjoy considerable consensus in many parts of the world. A growing number of institutions are concerned to construct new narratives that represent a plurality of lived experiences, histories and identities which aim to nurture support for more progressive, ethically-informed ways of seeing and to actively inform contemporary public debates on often contested rights-related issues. At the same time it would be misleading to suggest an even and uncontested transition from the museum as an organisation that has been widely understood to marginalise, exclude and oppress to one which is wholly inclusive. Moreover, there are signs that momentum towards making museums more inclusive and equitable is slowing down or, in some contexts, reversing.
Museums, Equality and Social Justice aims to reflect on and, crucially, to inform debates in museum research, policy and practice at this critical time. It brings together new research from academics and practitioners and insights from artists, activists, and commentators to explore the ways in which museums, galleries and heritage organisations are engaging with the fast-changing equalities terrain and the shifting politics of identity at global, national and local levels and to investigate their potential to contribute to more equitable, fair and just societies.
Foreword Introduction Part 1: Margins to the Core? 1. The heart of the matter 2. Museologically speaking: a conversation with Fred Wilson 3. Moving beyond the mainstream: insight into the relationship between community-based heritage organisations and the museum 4. Beyond compliance? Museums, disability and the law 5. Museums for social justice: managing organisational change 6. Fred Wilson, Good Work and the phenomenon of Freud’s Mystic Writing Pad Part 2: Connecting/Competing Equalities 7. The Margins and the Mainstream 8. Cultural diversity: politics, policy and practices. The case of Tate Encounters 9. A question of faith - the museum as a spiritual or secular space 10. A book with its page always open? 11. Unpacking gender: creating complex models for gender inclusivity in museums 12. Museums and autism: creating an inclusive community for learning 13. Museums as intercultural spaces Part 3: Museums and the Good 14. Museums and the human rights frame 15. Creativity, learning and cultural rights 16. Exceeding the limits of representation? Petitioning for constitutional change at the Museum of Australian Democracy 17. Towards social inclusion in Taiwan: museums, equality and indigenous groups 18. Social justice and community participation in non-Western contexts: the Marib museum project in Yemen 19. Embedding shared heritage: human rights discourse and the London Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage 20. Social media towards social change: opportunities and challenges for museums 21. Museums, African Collections and Social Justice Index
Museums have undergone enormous changes in recent decades; an ongoing process of renewal and transformation bringing with it changes in priority, practice and role as well as new expectations, philosophies, imperatives and tensions that continue to attract attention from those working in, and drawing upon, wide ranging disciplines.
Museum Meanings presents new research that explores diverse aspects of the shifting social, cultural and political significance of museums and their agency beyond, as well as within, the cultural sphere. Interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and international perspectives and empirical investigation are brought to bear on the exploration of museums’ relationships with their various publics (and analysis of the ways in which museums shape – and are shaped by – such interactions).
Theoretical perspectives might be drawn from anthropology, cultural studies, art and art history, learning and communication, media studies, architecture and design and material culture studies amongst others. Museums are understood very broadly – to include art galleries, historic sites and other cultural heritage institutions – as are their relationships with diverse constituencies.
The focus on the relationship of the museum to its publics shifts the emphasis from objects and collections and the study of museums as text, to studies grounded in the analysis of bodies and sites; identities and communities; ethics, moralities and politics.