#24 Who Are Museums REALLY Speaking For (And What About The Rest of Us) | WeAreSTS

WeAreSTS - A Podcast from UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS), hosted by Professor Joe Cain.

Alex Hancock explores how research about museum collections is helping to connect British museums with more of the publics they claim to support. His emphasis is on decolonisation, engagement, and white European power. Ultimately, how do structural inequalities manifest in our museums, and how do we move to a new set of relationships?

Alex undertook this project for the STSNewsRoom in summer 2021. His reporting focused on two specific events.

First, Alex discusses with Tannis Davidson the “Displays of Power” exhibition at UCL Grant Museum of Zoology, which explores legacy of empire through objects in the museum and other natural history collections. Objects in these collections have complex histories of collection and ownership. We need to move past merely celebrating the collector and collecting, the exhibition argues, and instead highlight issues of power and control, removal and appropriation, privilege and the ability to ignore.

Second, Alex discusses critiques of representation and engagement in museums with Professor Emily Dawson in light of Black Lives Matter campaigning. Professor Dawson has a long history working with groups from many communities to explore what museums mean to them and how museums serve different groups. For some people, museums just aren’t welcoming places, Professor Dawson explains.

Alex asks the straightforward question: where are these movements leading the future of museums? Is change likely in the near future?


Presenter and researcher


In the break, you heard Jasmine Charkravarty, also part of the STSNewsRoom2021.


Additional materials

Professor Dawson’s papers regarding the social exclusion of groups in museum spaces include:

Dawson, E. (2014). “Not Designed for Us”: How Science Museums and Science Centers Socially Exclude Low-Income, Minority Ethnic Groups. Science Education, 98(6), 981-1008.

Dawson, E. (2018). Reimagining publics and (non)participation: Exploring exclusion from science communication through the experiences of low-income, minority ethnic groups. Public Understanding of Science, 27(7), 772-786.

The study mentioned by Dr. Dawson regarding Indigenous curatorial practices and how their artefacts and artwork are cared for in museums:

Nagam, J., Lane, C., and Tamati-Quennell, M. (Eds.). (2020). Becoming our future: global indigenous curatorial practice (Winnipeg, Canada: ARP Books)

Music credits

In the episode, Alex also uses this music:

  • Young Logos, “Papov”, YouTube Audio Library
  • Bad Snacks, “Wallflowers”, YouTube Audio Library

Podcast information

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