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CTE Ser 2, Sem 4: Memorialising through Heritage (22 Sept 2021, 2-3pm BST)

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Culture, Things, and Empire: Series Two , ‘Remembering Empire’. Seminar 4: Memorialising through Heritage (22 September 2021, 2-3pm BST)

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Our second series contains five seminars, each one based on a particular theme, which will take place every month consecutively between June 2021 and October 2021. Each speaker will present their 10 minute paper followed by a response to both papers by their respondents. Group discussion, questions and comments will take place in the time remaining.

Charlotte Barratt (University of Leicester) How do diverse communities experience their local history museum?

Abstract:

This seminar will look at my findings from my PhD research around diverse communities’ experiences in a local history museum. I worked with four English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) groups over two years and we visited the Newarke Houses Museum in Leicester. Being a super-diverse (Vertovec, 2007) city, the local history museum should represent all of the local communities. The seminar will briefly look at diversity and super-diversity in the Leicester context as a background to the study.

The visits to the museum focused on sensory and emotional experiences and the story of the visits highlight how people from different backgrounds share similarities and differences. The groups’ experiences also show where local authority and civic museums can improve representation of their local communities within their exhibitions and decolonise at a ground roots level. The seminar will present some of the findings using video and photographs on how people shared their experiences with the objects and exhibits in the museum.

Bio:

I am a part-time PhD student who works full time in widening participation at the University of Leicester. I am also a Trustee for the City of Leicester Museums Trust. My interest in art history, history and museum development has led to writing content for the Newarke Houses Museum and the Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester. I work with learners across the city and have been lucky to combine my work and educational interests into one (almost complete) thesis.

Matthew Jones (Sussex University) Collaborative Curating and displaying the British Slave Trade: from objects, to people, to self-autonomy

Abstract:

This paper will argue that contemporary curatorial practice regarding the use of collaborative curating to make exhibits on the history and legacies of the British slave trade has begun to centre the cultural self-autonomy of African and Caribbean communities. This can be characterised as move from consultation to co-curation, however, this paper will show that this has not been a linear progression. Rather, it has been fraught with difficulties stemming from the different expectations of what can be achieved from acts of curatorial collaboration. Within this, this paper will make a broader argument that this movement can be seen as the realisation of culture as generative and that a democratic museological approach argued for by New Museology has to move beyond the museum as reflexive to the realisation that it holds a position of power. Recognising that communities can create interpretation, and that this interpretation is critical to understanding history, from the cultural references they hold and the social positions they inhabit is central to this.

This will be demonstrated by looking at key case studies to delineate this process starting in curatorial responses to the 2007 bicentenary of the Abolition act where communities were widely consulted both to add diversity to largely white museums and to fill in gaps in collections. Therefore, they were treated as rarefied objects because of the history they were seen as embodying, as objects of empire. Then moving to post-2007 curatorial work it will be shown that the entanglement of the interpretive communities of the museum and African and Caribbean communities has resulted in the displacement of museum as the only dynamic actor in this relationship through critical questioning by communities in the various roles they have had access to such as artists, members of advisory groups, selectors of objects and writers of texts.

Bio:

I am an AHRC funded doctoral student in Art History at Sussex University. My thesis focuses on the curatorial legacies of the 2007 bicentenary commemorations of the Abolition Act. Within this I look at the institutional memory of museums, the notion of a slavery memorial museum, collaborative curatorial practice, artistic interventions in exhibitionary spaces and representations of the histories and legacies of the slave trade. Alongside this I co-founded the Postcolonial Heritage Research Group. Prior to my PhD I completed a MA Art History and Museum Curating at Sussex and a BA History and Politics at the University of Warwick.

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Organiser of CTE Ser 2, Sem 4: Memorialising through Heritage (22 Sept 2021, 2-3pm BST)

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