Building an Actively Anti-racist Culture at CMP

In May 2020, like so many other charities across the world, CMP recognised the need for institutional change regarding anti-racist work, both in the museums sector and in wider society. On 2 June 2020, we tweeted: “We echo the words of @museum_detox  – silence is an act of violence. We all have responsibility to the Black community who visit, who are employed and whose culture is on display in museums. Now is the time to be anti-racist.” We wanted to find a way to embed and operationalise anti-racism, beyond statements on social media. We created our Equity Action Planwhich we published on 24 July 2020We have reflected on our international responsibility as a charity; our Business Plan sets out our commitment to the UN Global Goals, including Goal 16, ‘to promote peace, justice and strong institutions’ and our anti-racism work fits within our broader commitment to support a tolerant and peaceful society. We’re sharing some of our actions and ambitions a year on.  

 

Acknowledging our privilege  

It’s important to us to recognise the institutional and systemic benefits many of the CMP team have benefitted from. This is an ongoing process; we are learning as individuals and as a team and often update our intentions to reflect our new understandings. We are open to feedback, discussion, and know we can always improve. The publication of our Equity Action Plan was the first step in recognising this. We are proud to be a female-led organisation, but our charity has not always reflected the society we operate in. We’ve collected and analysed our workforce data, including staff, trustees, volunteers and freelancers, to understand the makeup of our team and influence our recruitmentIn our most recent board recruitment, 60% of the applications we received were from people identifying with one or more protected characteristic we were targeting. We are working hard to understand and navigate the nuance of intersectionality of our privileges and have used Sylvia Duckworth’s Wheel of Power & Privilege as a starting point. Where we have privilege and power, we’ve challenged discrimination and advocated for policy change.   

 

A colourful pie chart graphic called 'The Wheel of Power/Privilege' showing power in the centre and the different categories affecting privilege around the outer edge.

 

Build relationships with trusted partners  

Collaboration is one of our charity’s values and it’s central to our work to partner with experts and other organisations. By partnering with organisations such as Black Voices Cornwall and the Black British Museum, we can ensure fresh perspectives on project development and our direction of travel. We’ve been very grateful for our partners’ support of CMP, openness to work together, and honest perspectives on our work and progress. We’ve signed Black Voices Cornwall’s Race Charter to demonstrate our commitment to making change in Cornwall.   

This has been a mutually beneficial relationship; we have learnt a lot from our partnership but have also brokered relationships with museums for Black Voices Cornwall and supported their growth as a powerful organisation in Cornwall. 

 

Make space for, amplify and fund non-white voices 

We’ve encouraged conversations through the Rural Diversity Network, led by people of colour, confronting race-based subjects, but also other pertinent to the museums sector. We want to recognise people of colour’s expertise on all types of topics.  

In October 2020, we secured Art Fund investment to deliver a project with Black Voices Cornwall and the Black British Museum, exploring contemporary and historic stories of Black people’s experiences in Cornwall. We will continue to resource and secure investment for this work as well as embed it in our core strands of work with partner museums. 

 

Bring our peers with us on the journey  

Through the Engagement Network, we’ve delivered free, open events tackling equity-based conversations, such as “Decolonisation: where to I begin?” with Dr. Tehmina Goskar and Shreya Sharma, and the Cornwall virtual ‘leg’ of Professor Dan Hicks’ Brutish Museums book tour. It’s important to us that we acknowledge the intersectionality and complexity of these issues which is why we’re also delivering sessions with partners like Queer Kernow, who supported the Disovering and Sharing LGBTQIA+ Items in Your Museum of Gallery Collection webinar in 2020. We’ve shared resources that we’re finding useful via our Equity Action Plan, newsletter, and social media channels. We’re proud of the work our museum partners are delivering to build additional knowledge about their collections and add new perspectives to their interpretation alongside their day to day. The ‘Under the Eaves’ project at the Museum of Cornish Life is continuing the work started via the Citizen Curators programmewhich is sharing new understandings of their collection in a series of blog posts

We’re working closely with The Space to test and develop bespoke Online Abuse training for our staff and the museums sector. This will ensure our team are better equipped to recognise, report, and navigate the increasingly complex world of social media. We’ve also reviewed our Marketing Strategy in light of this and implemented processes of promoting our work in a way that supports and protects the wellbeing of our Communications Team.  

 

Test new ways of working  

Innovation is one of our values, we’ve always been interested in testing new approaches. This year marks the end of our 3-year action research project, Citizen Curators, developed and delivered in partnership with Dr. Tehmina Goskar of the Curatorial Research Centre. We’ve been able to understand and explore new, inclusive volunteering opportunities with our partner museums. We’ll be sharing more about the conclusions of Citizen Curators before the end of this year.  

We’ve also tested new ways of recruiting staff and trustees for our charity, to make the process more inclusive. This includes:  

  • FAQ videos for prospective applicants 
  • Anonymous shortlisting  
  • Guaranteed interview scheme 
  • Task-based applications  
  • Explicitly stating our interest in hiring people from a diverse range of backgrounds in our advertisements.  

 

What next?  

Our Equity Action Plan is reviewed regularly at Team Meetings and by our Board of Trustees. We want to continue working on, and investing in, anti-racism and equity work. We want to maintain the relationships we’ve built in the past year and continue providing reflective opportunities for our workforce as well as the wider museums sector in Cornwall. For the next year, we’ll also be focusing on:  

  • Delivery of our Rural Diversity Network project with Black Voices Cornwall and the Black British Museum project.  
  • Review our workforce data and embed inclusive recruitment practices that we’ve tested.  
  • Deliver training and development for our Board and staff, including the continued development of the Online Abuse training with The Space.  
  • To embed equity into the development of our programmes, especially with our Partner museums.  

 

– Charlotte Morgan, Collaborative Programmes Manager

2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards – Trophy Road Trip Part 1 

In this new blog series, join our Museum Development Officer, Stephanie Clemens, as she travels around the Duchy delivering some much-awaited certificates and plaques to the winners of the 2020 Cornwall Heritage Awards! Following our virtual awards ceremony in October we are thrilled to now be able to deliver these awards to their recipients in person this Summer. Buckle up and join us for the road trip…

A line of six people stand smiling, three hold blue Cornwall Heritage Awards plaques - from the awards ceremony at Mary Newman's Cottage, Saltash.

2020, do we really need to look back again? Well, yes, because there were some great things that happened, and among them was the online celebration for the Cornwall Heritage Awards entrants and winners. We managed a bit of glitz and glamour, we managed celebratory food and drink, we managed speeches and we even managed a convivial atmosphere, but one thing we couldn’t do was hand over the trophies and certificates. Posting them out seemed a bit underwhelming and lacking in photo opportunities, so we optimistically planned to hand deliver the trophies after the event. Unfortunately, we were thwarted by subsequent lockdowns and our hopes of road tripping from Porthcurno to Bude receded into the distant future. 

But, with restrictions lifted and vaccines rolled out, it’s finally happening, and I’m delighted to say three of our fabulous winners are now able to display their trophies and certificates. And what a way to start off our trophy road trip in Saltash: the incredible volunteers at the Tamar Protection Society certainly know how to put on a good afternoon tea party!

Our Marketing Intern, Natalie, and I headed up to Mary Newman’s Cottage to congratulate both TPS and their neighbours Saltash Heritage on their wins. In the beautiful rose-filled Tudor garden, I was able to present TPS with their award for Best Festival, Event or Exhibition for their Tudor Afternoon event. TPS had put on this event to make the most of the unique atmosphere at Mary Newman’s Cottage and to draw in new audiences to experience a bit of Tudor life for themselves. It was a great success and they received lots positive feedback – do look out for more Tudor events in the future. The musicians who played at the original event had been invited back for the trophy presentation, which certainly gave the afternoon a very appropriate celebratory flair. Gerry Sweet of TPS said, “The Heritage Awards are a splendid way to showcase the rich and diverse collection of heritage organisations working throughout Cornwall. We at the Tamar Protection Society were thrilled and honoured to be recognised as the winner in the Best Event category for our Tudor Afternoon at Mary Newman’s Cottage, Saltash. The award has spurred us on to develop other events in order to attract a different and more varied audience.” This is completely what the Awards are about! 

Two people in Tudor dress stand in a blue gazebo in a garden and play on old instruments.

I also had the pleasure of presenting Saltash Heritage with their Award for Wellbeing. Both TPS and Saltash Heritage are entirely volunteer run, and Saltash Heritage entered the Heritage Awards with a gold-standard approach to showing appreciation for their valued volunteers. Following a previous Heritage Awards win (they are no strangers to excellence), the committee devised ‘The Puzzle” – a jigsaw where each piece represented one of the 65 volunteers within the board of the museum. They were told that if even just one piece of that puzzle were missing, the museum would not be working to its full potential.  Even better, every volunteer was surprised at their annual after-Christmas party that year with a silver puzzle piece to attach to their lanyards: a constant reminder of their value and collective dedication to the museum. Lizzy Sharpe-Asprey, Hon Secretary, said: “Holding the latest award I felt my team worked beautifully together to produce the end result, of lots of tears and hugs, that just made it for us. We will proudly place the new award on our museum wall for everyone to admire.”  

One of the highlights of our afternoon in Saltash was the privilege of meeting a young volunteer from Saltash Heritage. Robert John Barrett received a Highly Commended certificate in the One To Watch category, which aims to say thank you to all the young volunteers who give their time to museums and heritage organisations in Cornwall. Robert, who is Autistic, has undertaken two incredible pieces of work to make a photographic record of Fore Street and to work his way through the museum’s collections photographing the 3D objects and scanning archive documents. Both of these activities contribute to the long term understanding and celebration of Saltash’s history. Robert has become part of the Saltash Heritage team, developing his social skills and growing in confidence in a workplace environment. The rest of the team have gained experience and understanding of autism and have become advocates for the many positives of having a person with autism on board. Robert, his family and the museum team speak openly about autism and it’s inspiring to hear their positivity.  As extra recognition, Robert received a certificate from the Mayor of Saltash. The week after the presentation, Robert’s father Andrew gave this reflection: “Describing his feelings and emotions is difficult for Autistic people like Robert, but I have spoken with him and he is proud of his awards and enjoyed the afternoon and tea.” I’d venture that Saltash is very proud of him too. 

A wooden and blue awards plaque reads 'Cornwall Heritage Awards 2020; Wellbeing; Wheal Martyn Clay Works'

Our second trophy drop was to Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum, where I was able to present another Award for Wellbeing. Over the 18 months prior to the Heritage Awards, staff at Wheal Martyn had worked with a range of partners (Heritage Ability, Sensory Trust, Spectrum, Brannel School and Badger Forrest School) to make a number of interventions onsite to improve inclusivity for both visitors and staff and volunteers. Improvements to the site’s accessibility have included creating an easy read guide for people with learning difficulties, making Wheal Martyn a registered ‘safe place’ if people need help when out in their local area, as well as creating BSL clips and installing a hearing loop for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. They have also created visual stories, sensory backpacks and made a designated quiet zone to assist visitors with autism, anxiety and other associated conditions. They introduced a relaxed session in the museum which received fantastic feedback from the families who attended and who have since returned to explore the site further. 

They have found that improving access has not only helped the group it was intended for, but has improved the experience for other visitors as well. They have continued in their efforts to make Wheal Martyn as welcoming as they can and give all their visitors the best experience possible. The regular Memory Café and Arts and Crafts for Health sessions are well established and the museum’s ethos of inclusivity has become embedded in their practice. It was a pleasure to deliver this trophy to some of the wonderful staff and volunteers. 

The most wonderful thing about delivering the trophies has been finally being able to meet everyone in person nearly a year after I came to CMP. Thank you to everyone at Tamar Protection Society, Saltash Heritage and Wheal Martyn for being so welcoming and so utterly brilliant at what they do. 

Three trophies down, eight to go. Our road trip continues over the summer… 

 

– Stephanie Clemens, Museum Development Officer

Saltash Photo Credits: Bruce Hunt