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 Plan, which we published on 24 July 2020. We 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 recruitment. In 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.
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 programme, which 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:
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:
– Charlotte Morgan, Collaborative Programmes Manager