Facing an imperial past: The Hunterian Museum begins to decolonise their collections Watch
Dr Peggy Brunache, a lecturer in the history of Atlantic slavery at the University of Glasgow, said that the Hunterian’s artistic and scientific interpretations of collections are fixed in imperial thinking.
“The Hunterian has traditionally been a global power that reflects and represents Western ideologies, particularly those of white colonizers,” Dr Brunache said.
Many people across the UK and the USA have been demanding intellectual institutions acknowledge their roots in colonisation. Museums and universities across these countries have benefitted from donated art and scientific instruments that were stolen from countries during British imperialism and Westward expansion.
In August, the University of Glasgow said it would pay £20m in reparations for a joint centre on development research with the University of the West Indies after it discovered it had benefited financially from Scottish slave traders in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Another investigation found that a reflecting telescope came from Alexander MacFarlane, a merchant and slave owner in Jamaica.
Dr. Vitelli said that objects with links to the slave trade are often not accompanied with a museum label reflecting that side of its history, or how the slave owners that donated the object financially benefitted from slavery.
Additionally, researching how these objects came to the museum may not be as easy as looking through donation books and archives.
“Who are the invisible people who indirectly and directly contributed to the knowledge and information created around them that benefitted the scientists and MacFarlanes of this world? They’re going to be found by people not written in these records,” Dr Vitelli said.
Curator for Archaeology and World Cultures Andy Mills, who has worked at the Hunterian for two months, said he is taking steps to decolonise the museum’s collections and set new rules involving what the museum is not allowed to benefit from anymore.
One step already taken is that the museum is no longer conducting research on human remains that were most likely a result of grave robbing across Africa and Asia.
“We’re at the beginning of a journey for continuous improvement by embracing and adapting post-colonial discourse, diversifying exhibition programming and openly admitting our colonial legacies,” Mills said.
With a lack of feminist and queer representation, current employment rules still do not allow institutions to prioritise diversifying their workforce, Scholten said. "It won’t be a quick journey, but maybe we should take the African proverb to heart that says: ‘If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.’”
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I mean by her logic we should remove-absolutely any reference to slavery and pretend it didnt happen no? As but one of many examples.
"decolonising their collection" also known as getting rid of half their collection to appease a bunch of numb skulls that will likely never visit or donate money anyway
This trend of deliberately painting imperial history in a bad light is getting on my nerves immensely. We did many good things as an Empire, and implying that Britain was as bad as Nazi Germany is just disrespect to the Jews, gypsies, gay people and anyone else targeted by Hitler.
A German concentration camp for Jews? No - a British concentration camp for Boers.
Show me a quote by Himmler or Hitler that supports reducing the rate of mortality in concentration camps (which were extermination camps, as opposed to the prisoner-of-war camps established by Britain) and we can talk.