New project to celebrate diverse cultures in NI’s Museums
National Museums NI, in partnership with the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) and Northern Ireland Museums Council (NIMC), are among 10 UK museum applicants successful in a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, which is awarded by the Museums Association. Their project titled, ‘Global Voices, Local Choices’ has secured a grant of £80,187, and will support a dedicated post for 18 months.
The partners will be working to engage marginalised communities availing them a fair opportunity for their community representatives to assert their right to make choices relating to National Museums NI’s World Cultures collections and how they are interpreted. The project will bring diverse cultures and perspectives into Northern Ireland’s local and national museums and will be a learning experience for all partners and participants.
Hannah Crowdy, Head of Curatorial at National Museums NI said:
“We are delighted to be awarded this funding which will enable better community engagement with our collections through a dedicated post. Our ‘Global Voices, Local Choices’ project will raise awareness and understanding of these collections, and how a decolonisation approach can be implemented in a fresh and inclusive way through creativity.
“This will be an opportunity to present marginalised global voices and learn from the expertise within marginalised communities, as we seek to devise a new approach for connecting people with collections that have a complex legacy but present significant opportunities for promoting understanding and respect and supporting good relations.”
Dr Livingstone Thompson, Chair of ACSONI said:
“ACSONI is pleased to be associated with this project. It is only in more recent times that the need to do justice to the memory and heritage of ethnic minorities’ communities has been appreciated. For centuries, colonial nations gave themselves the right to tell the stories about the life and experiences of people from colonised contexts. The remnant of this self-proclaimed right is preserved in the presence of artefacts in museums and the narratives perpetrated about them. There is growing awareness that this self-proclaimed right must not only be questioned but also that the narratives need to change and reckon more with what the true owners of these sometimes-ill-gotten artefacts have to say.
“This project will give such an opportunity to address errors, injustice and failures relating to the acquisition of artefacts, the stories that are told about them and who is best to tell these stories. It will and ought to explore how the history can be upended so that those who were treated as footnotes in the stories of others can come to tell their own stories.”
Siobhan Stevenson, Director at Northern Ireland Museums Council said:
“Northern Ireland Museums Council are delighted to be partners in this project and will be keen to work with our member museums to engage them and their local communities in this journey of mutual learning and understanding. In sharing collections and creative responses to them, in public museum spaces across Northern Ireland, the project will help to raise awareness of the rich complexity and diversity of cultural heritage and identities in this place, and in doing so will help challenge misconceptions and promote empathy and understanding.”