Key conversation questions and provocations: “How might we reimagine practices of curation in the service of anti-racism? …What does anti-racist curation look like? In a Future where Racism has no Place – What can Museums Do?”Source: Research Centre for Material Culture (RCMC), Amsterdam – https://www.materialculture.nl/
On November 19th, 2020, I was pleased to attend an insightful webinar on “Curating and Collecting Anti-Racism?” convened and hosted by Professor Wayne Modest, Head of the Research Centre for Material Culture (RCMC), National Museum of World Cultures, Amsterdam.
This panel session was the fourth in a series of important online conversations between leading curators, museology scholars, arts activists, historians, and cultural commentators with long-establised expertise conceptualising, researching and presenting exhibition content in ways that advance racial justice and anti-racist pedagogies and practices within museums and galleries.
Alongside Wayne Modest – and fellow RCMC staff, Priya Swamy and Amal Alhaag (contributing as panel respondents and moderators) – were the following invited panelists: Ming Tiampo (Carleton Museum, Ottawa); Antonia Alampi (SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin), and Paul Goodwin (TrAIN Research Centre (for the study of Transnational Art, Identity and Nation), University of the Arts, London).
During the introductory overview Professor Modest began by drawing attention to a selection of recently published books which he felt featured highly engaging narratives that responded constructively to important questions about how we ‘decolonise’ museums, galleries and other arts and heritage spaces. All the texts were considered equally helpful to museum practitioners, academic researchers and art-political activists striving to advance progressive ideas and develop effective strategies for eradicating all forms of racism, stereotyping and the many structural biases within exhibiting practice, collections management and wider aspects of cultural custodianship.
The four books in focus were:
- “Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts” (2018), by Aruna D’Souza
- “Curatorial Activism: Towards an Ethics of Curating” (2018), by Maura Reilly
- “To Describe a Life: Notes from the Intersection of Art and Race Terror” (2019) by Darby English.
- “Mounting Frustrations: The Art Museum in the Age of Black Power” (Revised aand updated edition, 2019), by Susan E. Cahan.
In addition, some initial details were conveyed about a recently established RCMC collaborative, funded research project on “Worlding Material Culture” – currently in development to provide a space where scholars can come together to think critically about “the museum as a site of negotiation” as regards addressing issues of ‘race’ and anti-racism, whilst simultaneously also serving as a “space of opportunity.”