The Museums Association has published its Manifesto for Tolerance and Inclusion – a rallying call to action for museum colleagues not to sit back and watch the rise of national and international intolerance, but to take a stance against it.
The manifesto sets out values and practical actions that form a mini code of practice, reiterating that the first tenets of the ethical museum are public engagement and public benefit. It says nothing more than that which many museums are already signed up to. It’s not particularly controversial, just a reinforcement that museums should be welcoming to all, should address diversity and challenge ignorance and bigotry.
Well yes, I think it is. Many of us are heads-down, beavering away in our museums. We’re grounded in our local communities and aware of every nuance of local interest, it’s so easy to miss the significance of the bigger picture or even dismiss it as irrelevant, but to challenge intolerance we need to take action now, before issues are brought to our doorsteps.
It is the fact that museums are at the heart of communities that gives them the responsibility and privilege to make this challenge effectively. And we should even take it one step further and provoke debate. Debate and discussion can build stronger and more meaningful interactions; it can help us understand the complexities of our heritage, reflect on it and face up to our future.
A manifesto like this reminds us that we are all small cogs in a large machine – we work both individually at a local level, but also on a large scale together we work together to build culture. If museums, as the champions of their communities, don’t take the initiative, then who will?
Museum Development Officer