Supporting museums to work in an anti-racist way
As well as supporting change within our own organisation, Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) is committed to supporting the museums and galleries sector to work in an anti-racist way. Museums have helped to tell, and construct, the narratives we share about Scotland’s past—including the stories of Scotland’s role in empire, colonialism, and historic slavery, and have benefitted from the exploitation inherent within these systems.
That also means that museums can play a powerful role in addressing the inequalities that have resulted from these systems: just as museums have played a role in perpetuating racist narratives, they can also be part of sharing and promoting anti-racist narratives. MGS is committed to ensuring that museums and galleries in Scotland are supported to work as anti-racist organisations: we recognise that this requires long-term change.
Here is some of the work we have undertaken or helped to fund, to support changes in museums and galleries practice which will have impact and meaning. This work is ongoing.
Projects we have funded
Through our grants streams, we are enabling museums to explore, understand, and reinterpret their collections and programming, especially as it relates to anti-racist and anti-colonial work. This will continue to be a priority area for our grants, and we welcome conversations with museums looking to explore these areas of work.
Projects like Glasgow Women’s Library’s Bush Tea: a decolonial conversation, the Hunterian’s Curating Discomfort, and Paxton House’s reinterpretation work (including Caribbean Connections) have fostered anti-racist dialogue in museum spaces. These important projects have been seeking to forge change across a range of Scotland’s museums, including in Scotland’s biggest museum service (run by Glasgow Life), where Legacies of Slavery has been impacting how the museum service approaches stories about empire, colonialism, historic slavery, and migration.
Many of these projects are working to build and grow partnerships, whether within Scotland (such as REVEAL AND CONNECT: African and African-Caribbean Collections in Scottish Museums, led by National Museums Scotland), or internationally (including Livingstone's Living Legacy, which will build partnerships between David Livingstone Birthplace Museum and cultural organisations in South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, and Zanzibar).
We are proud to support museums, including those at Angus Alive, the Stirling Smith, and the Universities of Aberdeen and St Andrews, who are seeking to explore colonial connections within their collections and develop anti-racist programming.
Widening access to our Funding
We have been proud to support a wider range of organisations than ever before in 2020-22. This has included directly supporting non-Accredited museums with Covid-response funding, as well as working with partners to offer grant funding to community groups through the Year of Scotland’s Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This has included funding 19 projects that are specifically focused on race inclusion and seeking to combat racism as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. We are exploring how changes to our grants programming can enable us to continue to work with and support community organisations to engage with museums, working together in an anti-racist way.
Empire, Slavery & Scotland’s Museums
Empire, Slavery & Scotland’s Museums has explored how museums and galleries can address the legacies of empire, colonialism, and historic slavery in their organisations and programming. This project has offered a key opportunity to initiate conversations within and between organisations across Scotland about how we can work in an anti-racist way.
You can find information on the project, including the research, recommendations from the Steering Group, and other resources on our website.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in Scottish Heritage
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in Scottish Heritage, funded by AHRC, delivered a year-long programme of research and collaborative engagement across the heritage sector. You can find the project research and resources, including a toolkit for heritage organisations looking to work with community groups, on our website.
Peer Support: Events and Communications
We are dedicated to offering peer support for discussion and exploration of anti-racism in the sector. This includes events run through our Knowledge Exchange programme, and support for and through Subject Specialist Networks, The MGS Strategic Learning Forum, and Scotland’s geographic forums. You can find information from our anti-racist peer support events in our advice section under Inclusion: there is a specific section for anti-racism.
We have also produced a guide to support museums to talk about anti-racism within their communications.