Resist, Redress, Repatriate:
Museums and the Struggle for an Inclusive Future
Remarks at 6:30pm
Although university museums like the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford have tried for decades to be “apolitical” spaces, they are and always have been politically implicated. Now, in 2017, faced with an unprecedented political atmosphere informed by social polarization and exclusion, what do we do? How do museums position themselves when they may have contributed to this sense of exclusion?
Today at the Pitt Rivers Museum, we ask ourselves these questions: How do we become a space for courageous conversations? What needs to be repatriated, queered, unlocked, and activated? Can we become radical allies to social movements for redress even when we are rooted in a past that itself demands redress? Can we be of value to refugee communities, to the LGBTQ+ community, to young people excluded from schools, to indigenous peoples and diasporas, to people living with Dementia and Alzheimer, to others who feel somehow excluded, stigmatized, or marginalized? How can we be champions of a future that is inclusive, with respect for diverse peoples and diverse perspectives?
The Pitt Rivers Museum is unlike any other museum of its kind: fifty thousand objects are exhibited in densely populated multi-layered Victorian age displays. The museum was founded in 1884 and has consciously cultivated its characteristic layout: cases are arranged by type, not time or region, and reveal fascinating distinctions and parallels across cultures. The museum is much loved by its 21st century audiences, but has also been scrutinized, particularly in postcolonial writing, for seemingly repeating colonial paradigms by embedding these in the very fabric of its collections and displays, and to some the Pitt Rivers Museum seems doomed to remain a “preserve of colonialism.”
Dr. Laura Van Broekhoven, Director of the Pitt Rivers Museum at University of Oxford, introduces us to the Museum, speaks to the work her museum is doing to address contemporary political challenges, and addresses the role and responsibility of today’s museums in confronting social exclusion.
RSVP by Monday 27th November
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