Open Culture 2011 – Collections and Human Rights

First after coffee – David Fleming – Directory National Museums Liverpool

Museum’s no longer look solely to collections for inspiration – but to people and stories as well
Museum’s have become more emotive and emotional – no longer feel the need to appear ‘neutral’. David describes the concept of ‘neutral’ as the stupidest idea you can have in your brain as a museum (person)
Museum’s engaging with cultural diversity

But there is resistance – still people believe in neutrality (even believe it is possible) – people who think of musuems solely as collections of objects and not as places where ideas can be explored.

Museums are (“or they bloody well ought to be”) reflections of our society. Museums through their educational role should put diversity centre stage. Museums should consider:

  • Representation
  • Education
  • Action – e.g. International Slavery Museum – it is a ‘campaigning museum’ – campaigning on human rights – doesn’t just look at historic slavery (transatlantic slave trade), but current slavery and related human rights abuses such as child trafficking

Intention is that International Slavery Museum has significant social outcomes – wants people to leave in the mood for action.

David argues that museums cannot and SHOULD NOT be neutral – if they are to have public trust.

Torreon Declaration: – Intercom Declaration of Museum Responsibility to Promote Human Rights “INTERCOM believes that it is a fundamental responsibility of museums, whereever possible, to be active in promoting diversity and human rights, respect and equality for people of all origins, beliefs and backgrounds”

District Six Museum in Cape Town – portrays history of apartheid through history of peoples stories – no reference to collections – about memories, experience and stories (established 1994, same year that South Africa became a democracy).

District Six Museum – potent symbol, and to show that even after their downfall, repressive regimes can be held to account . They use emotion to put messages across and engage people.

David mentions Tuol Seng Genocide museum and recommends looking at photographs Also Cambodian Landmine Museum – specifically has a mission for ‘reconciliation’ with past (I think I got that right) “a place of healing for bodies, hearts and minds“

David talks about Museum of Genocide Victims in Lithuania – he says “Hugely impactful”

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