Institute of Archaeology


Only Collections in the Building Podcast 2

28 February 2024

The second podcast in the series 'Only Collections in The Building' created by Heba Abd el Gawad and Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp (UCL Institute of Archaeology) is now available.

Three smiling women standing in front of a gothic-style building with colourful banners in the background

The podcast series 'Only Collections in The Building' created by researcher and museum activist Heba Abd el Gawad, and Associate Professor Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp, forms part of the AHRC-funded project Mobilising Collections for Institutional Change: Egypt at the Horniman.

Activists, artists, and indigenous practitioners are being invited to intervene in or disrupt museum spaces with the aim to bring change. But meaningful collaboration relies on much larger structural or professional changes that they rarely have the power to implement.

There is so much talk about museums, decolonisation, and social justice, but very little that is grounded in the day-to-day work of structural change and how it impacts the people who are relied on to implement it. It is in this everyday work that relationships can breakdown. Rather than having a breakdown, Heba and Johanna will ask what it means in practice to put people before collections by sharing their experience of working together on All Eyes on Her!, a community-collaborative exhibition at the Horniman.

This series is produced by Maria Christodoulou, creator of From Root to Vine.

Episode 2: 'I don't accept Horniman's gift'

In this second episode Johanna and Heba, interviewing Nathalie Cooper (University of Warwick), explore the limits of good intentions and how inherited stories of public generosity impact on our ability to tell truthful histories in the present.

The Horniman in South London takes its name from Frederick Horniman, a liberal MP, abolitionist and a Quaker. He is a man remembered in the Horniman’s institutional aims for his founding gift to the people of London in 1901. Horniman’s gift included his collections, a considerable plot of land, and money to build a new Museum that would “bring the world to forest hill”.

But this world was a colonial one, and Horniman was a tea trader. It is a world that enabled this liberal man and others like him to travel widely, build imperial connections and drive significant profit margins, all without recognition of the labour, entitlement and exploitation that underpinned it.

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