This book explores how museums, galleries and heritage sites of all kinds, through the narratives they construct and publicly present, can shape the moral and political climate within which human rights are experienced. Through a series of richly-drawn cases, which focus on gender diversity and same-sex love and desire, Richard Sandell examines the ways in which museums are implicated in the ongoing struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex human rights. Museums, Moralities and Human Rights brings together for the first time the perspectives not only of those who work in, govern, fund and visit museums but also those of rights activists and campaigners who, at key moments in their struggle, have turned their attention to museums to advance their cause. Offering new insights into how human rights are continually fought for, realised and refused, this volume makes the case for museums of all kinds to take up an active, mindful and purposive engagement with contemporary human rights concerns.
1 Progress and Protest
2 ‘I am he that aches with love’
3 Coming Out Stories
4 Taking sides
5 Museums and the Transgender Tipping Point
6 Museum Work as Human Rights Work
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.