(Decolonizing) Museums

In May 2016 a group of artists and activists occupied the Brooklyn Museum to protest two exhibitions that normalized displacement in Palestine and Brooklyn. Following calls in academic and activist spaces, organizers founded the collective action group Decolonize This Place and developed a seven-point plan for decolonizing museums.

Our working group, Decolonizing Museums, takes decolonizing work as an object of inquiry, rather than a goal. Drawing on case studies from museums around the world, this working group will focus on the fraught histories embedded within institutional frameworks of white supremacy, racism, and settler colonialism, as well as their imbrications with patriarchy and heteronormativity. The history of museums is rooted in imperial wealth, acquisitions, and desires that are colonial by definition. Nonetheless, we are interested in experiments in decolonial work: ongoing pressures and strategies that loosen the systems of institutional white supremacy through such practices as artist commissions, recent curatorial interventions, audience participation, repatriation, and traditional care practices. Decolonizing Museums will imagine alternative future practices while considering participants’ specific roles—as subjects living with differing legacies of colonization—in this project.

Art on the left:
Brian Tripp, They Think They Own The Place, 1992. 29 x 22 1/4 in., mixed media on paper. Collection of University California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.