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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Museums are neutral. Or are they?

Defining what a museum is and does is no mean feat. We know museums do a lot more than just preserve and display valuable objects that the public can enjoy and learn from. Through their collections, museums trace the history of humanity and teach millions of people about who they are. As such, museums aren't just containers of heritage, they are creators of visual, social and cultural identity. I simplify, but it's all much more complicated than this.

The roots of many museums are entwined with those of colonialism. And to this day, this means that these institutions carry the heavy and unresolved burden of provenance and restitution, the largely overlooked issue of imperial violence and a consolidated history of gender and racial bias. These are places that were built to celebrate the great imperialist project, but why are these myths still perpetuated in 2020? Shouldn't museums focus on addressing these dangerously obsolete narratives in order to facilitate the understanding of the enduring impact of colonialism to allow people to reconcile with the past, make sense of the present and try and build a fairer future?

Social media and technology have allowed museums to reach much broader audiences across the world. Their power to become active agents of social change is now bigger than ever and they should leverage their status to educate, connect and unite communities.

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