The Contemporary Art Society partnered with the Decolonising Arts Institute to run a dedicated seminar programme across 2021 called Doing the Work: Embedding anti-racism and decolonisation into museum practice.
The 6 seminars aimed to support staff working in museums, art galleries and public art collections to engage meaningfully with anti-racism and decolonial practice.
Each workshop was attended by an early career museum professional who was commissioned to write a discursive account that synthesised and critically reflected on the key areas of discussion. You can read the full collection of accounts in Doing the Work: Embedding anti-racism and decolonisation into museum practice or read the individual reports below.
Explore our seminars
Curation: Who and What Narratives Are on Display?
By Lisa Kennedy
The first workshop in the ‘Doing the Work’ series focused on practices of curation and display. In this account Lisa Kennedy explores:
- gaps in knowledge
- stretched resources
- displaying problematic objects
- performative acts
- and neutrality
Read Lisa's report (PDF 4MB).
The Stories We Tell, the Knowledge We Produce
From Institutional Racism to Duties of Care: Moving Interventionist Practices away from Racism and Colonial Dominance
By Sylvia Theuri
In ‘Interventionist Practices’ participants considered the role of artist residencies in museums and galleries, and interventionist projects staged by independent curators and organisations. Sylvia documents key issues raised by the workshop:
- barriers to long-term institutional change
- legacies of interventionist projects
- duties of care
Documentation as a Site for Critical Decolonial and Anti-Racist Work
By Kathleen Lawther
‘Documentation Collections’ covered:
- terminology: what do decolonisation and anti-racism mean to the museum sector?
- myths, stories and facts
- authority and expertise
- and (ongoing) historical contexts
A Dangerous Balance: Interpreting Artworks
By Khairani Barokka (Okka)
The fourth workshop in the series focused on interpreting artworks and how museum workers might embed decolonial or anti-racist approaches within interpretation practice. The interlinked areas of discussions documented in this report include:
- membership and funding pressures
- media and public perceptions
- curatorial and interpretation strategies: including those involving visitors or ‘constituents’
- and performativity/responsibility
Read Okka’s report (PDF 3MB).
Towards Radical Acquisition Futures? Forging Meaningful Change in a Climate of Fragility and Underrepresentation
By Jessica Lowe-Mbirimi
The re-ignition of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 moved the issues of decolonisation and anti-racism back into the spotlight within museums and galleries.
Jessica summarises the challenges that curators are facing when engaging in this anti-racism and/or decolonisation work through collecting artworks. Jessica also explores the lack of consensus when defining decolonisation and what it might mean for museums to decolonise.
Collecting Practices and Acquisition Strategies
Collective Care is Different from Self Care: Rethinking Engagement in Art Museums and Galleries in 2021
By Aksana Khan
The sixth workshop in the ‘Doing the Work’ series focused on the practices and ethics of ‘engagement’ in art museums and galleries, and how anti-racist and decolonial approaches can be embedded in them.
The report covers the problems experienced within art institutions, the way those problems impact on engagement workers and the question of what ‘care’ truly means.
More to explore
Embedding anti-racism and decolonisation into museum practice
Read about our series addressing a variety of areas of museum work.
Learn about Decolonising Arts Institute activities.
Explore our recorded events.