Tamara Menzi on Unsplash - British Museum (Stop W) Tamara Menzi on Unsplash - British Museum (Stop W), Published August 3, 2016

What’s the Future for Museums?

To coincide with the UNESCO 24th session of the ‘Return & Restitution’ Committee, we’re hosting a debate on the future of museums.

The scandal of the British Museum inside-job theft might well suggest that documenting, preserving and displaying artefacts is no longer museums’ top priority. Certainly, the traditional function of museums – centred around scholarly research and the exhibition of significant objects from past human civilisations – seems under strain. Most museums have now taken on a different role: embracing a responsibility to confront historical injustices, offering apologies for past transgressions and attitudes, and seeking to decolonise their collections.

Many museums now seem to work on the principle of acknowledging the colonial history of many of their collections. For some, this is a necessary step to reveal the ‘whole picture’ of history, unearthing truths about individuals and their actions which had hitherto been hidden or whitewashed. But in the process, others fear what the consequences of reading history backwards in this way might be for the preservation of scholarship and the purpose and reputations of museums.

How should museums seek to portray the past? Is there a problem with framing objects and figures within a contemporary political framework, or is this necessary for the public to be able to engage with history, warts and all? What fate awaits the objects and collections in this context?  Will the traditional pursuit of neutrality and universalism be compromised if museums are seen to be pursuing political agendas?



Thursday 30 May 2024


Door open 6:45pm (for 7pm start) to 8:30pm


£5 cash only on the door to Room 1, or in advance via the 'Donate or Pay' button on the home-page.


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