Institute of Archaeology


Video: Mid-century museum ‘best’ practice and self-defined anti-racism

01 August 2024–13 September 2024, 9:00 am–5:00 pm

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Watch Johanna Zetterstrom Sharp's seminar on 'Mid-century museum ‘best’ practice and self-defined anti-racism.'

This event is free.

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Heritage Studies Section

Johanna Zetterstrom Sharp is an Associate Professor in Heritage Studies at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. Her presentation was given as part of the UCL Institute of Archaeology Autumn Seminar Series 2023.


Whilst sociologies of British racism have always placed significant emphasis on the 1960s-1980s as foundational to the institutionalised landscape of racism in Britain today, these formative years have largely been overlooked within post-colonial critiques of the UK museum sector. This paper will explore how territorial decolonisation, self-declared anti-racism, liberalism, technocratic expertise and museum ethics intersected with the increasing professionalisation of the sector. It will draw on archives of the UK Museum Ethnographers Group and the Museums Association to argue that these formative years structurally embedded inequalities, oppressions and entitlements within notions of best practice. It will argue that this continues to shape the limits within which decolonial work must engage today. It will focus in particular on how “best practice” is encased within a self-articulated ethical completeness, based on narrowly defined public responsibility and access. And how this continues to restrict the possibilities for more human futures for collections and belongings from the African continent through policy and process.

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Watch more from the series: https://tinyurl.com/2023-seminars