Museums must reflect the reality of acquisition.

AuthorCheddie, Janice

In June 2020, the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote: "We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. We cannot pretend to have a different history," in response to the removal of statues associated with racist or imperial ideologies in the UK.

It is, however, this process of editing Britain's past By Britain's heritage institutions, that Black heritage practitioners have sought to address by advocating for a presentation of British history, in heritage institutions, that reflects the role enslavement, colonialism and imperialism played in the development of modern Britain.

A challenge that has its echoes in the 1945, 5th Pan-African Conference, Manchester, calls for African self-determination. This found expression in the 1970s supplementary school movement where Black parents resisted the British education system's institutional racism by teaching Black history and heritage to their children and in Black community heritage organisations that preserve the historical presence of Black people in the UK.

In 2003, Jack Lohman, at the time, Director of the Museum of London remarked: "Museums that , present the culture of the world need to acknowledge the story by which those collections were acquired."

Despite these diverse voices for change, the dominant representation of British history within Britain's heritage institutions remains a presentation and interpretation that has sought to attenuate the role Britain's colonial possessions have played in the development of contemporary Britain.

The publication of Return of the ICONS (2020) is a new point of departure moving from apology and inclusion to restitution, building on the foundations of the Sarr-Savoy Report (2018).

The 1998 Museums Association (UK) definition of a museum states that "Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artefacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society"

This definition suggests that UK museum curators gathered unclaimed, unwanted and undervalued objects from around the world for safeguarding, when in fact museums, were developed as an integral part of the colonial enterprise.

The foundation collections of the British Museum and the Natural History museum came from the collector Sir Hans Sloane, and were formed out of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The 1998 definition also fails to recognise that the many or the African artefacts in...

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