Behind the Scenes at the 21st Century Museum (MOOC) week 4

Theme: how museums can contribute to issues around social justice and human rights.

The position is put that museums contribute to making a better, fairer society by shining lights on things otherwise unseen (eg social oppression) – but there are challenges…

choices about

  • what to exhibit
  • how to exhibit generating particular viewpoints
  • how to engage audiences in  debates over sensitive issues

Example, the International Slavery Museum Liverpool and its work with schools to highlight things like:

  • Global inequalities
  • Stereotypes
  • Activism
  • America after slavery
  • Black people in Britain

They also sighted issues of migration, transgender, queer arts and culture, and disability being tackled in museums.

The theme is hidden histories

The conclusion is that museums are inherently political. But surely that isn’t a surprise to anyone? The session was a wholly positive one showing what museums and gallery’s could do. But where dos this leave the concept of the ideal?

Beauty, and especially the ideal beauty, is something that dominates much gallery space. Perfect bodies imagined. Is this any different in effect from the idealised marketing images women are subjected to? This was not addressed at all and yet appears to me to be a central theme in much art.

British Museum defines Greek naked ideal, V. Dowd, BBCimage

So where does the concept the ideal sit in the wholly positive gallery approach we have heard about?


British Museum defines Greek naked ideal, V. Dowd, BBC  available here:


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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