Our museum’s institutional voice across social media tends to joke around a lot, but one of the things we are always serious about is our passion for the power of listening, and for the right of all people to be heard. We believe that acts of empathic listening can bring positive change in the world.
Within museum practice and theory, there’s a lot of talk about how museums need to listen to their audience; there’s also a lot of hiding behind one’s ‘institutionality’ – individuals of power within museums using the bureaucratic structure of ‘the institution’ as an excuse for refusing to take action to repatriate objects, take moral stances, or seek justice. We believe this is wrong, and that museums can do better.
We believe that museums can and must be willing to express opinions and take stances for what they believe in.
We believe in the inherent humanity of museums – that they are organisations that have all the strengths and flaws that people do. Museums were founded on principles of collecting and exhibiting knowledge, but they were also founded within cultures of colonialism, racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
Museum histories are complicated, and while they have the power to do good in the world, they also have a history of harm. We believe the time has come for museums to take responsibility for their pasts while positioning themselves as the caretakers of a better present and future. Therefore, we believe that museums can and must be willing to express opinions and take stances for what they believe in.
Museums not only need to listen – we also need to amplify the unheard.
We strive to use our institutional voice not only for education, but also for activism. Via our social media content, we have been outspoken in our support for #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, fighting climate change, and securing museum workers rights here in the UK, particularly in the wake of the post-COVID-19 economic downturn. We also know we have a lot of work to do in these and other areas, and we are eager to learn from our visitors and social media audiences.
Although we are a tiny museum funded only by donations, admission fees, and gift shop sales, we are dedicated to supporting three important organisations whose causes we believe in, and whose efforts to allow the unheard to be heard we believe to be worthwhile.
That’s why a small portion of your admission fees currently go toward these three charities each month:
• Amnesty International, working to free prisoners of conscience around the world;
• Samaritans, a UK organisation dedicated to the prevention of suicide by providing free telephone and in-person listening to people in crisis.