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Letter: Local History is Enriched By Input from Outside

Published on: 28 Jul, 2020
Updated on: 28 Jul, 2020

From: Martin Dowland

In response to: Plan to ‘Decolonise’ Guildford Museum Stirs a Storm of Comment and Criticism

Museums have not suddenly become aware of the significance of their collections. Museums are run by professionals who have always needed to justify themselves to ensure their existence so are hardly likely to be naïve.

I have been a member of the Museums Association, a professional organisation, since 1985 and worked as a museum professional full time for over a quarter of a century.

In this time, I have seen opportunities to change the ways we have presented sensitive material.

In the 1980s, “ethnography” collections tended to be dismantled and put into safe conservation storage, pending a new approach to their display. In the 90s, we started to take them out and use them for comparative study.

We were able to show objects from other continents for the skill of their craftsmanship alongside more familiar artefacts, really uniting communities with common, parallel histories.

I am glad that councillors are taking an interest in museums collections; if it is on the back of a current trend.

Local history is enriched by input from outside; it is impossible to put it in a bell jar as if cut off from the world. The more diverse the collections, the better off we are to tell useful stories.

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