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National Museum of Ireland cites Black Lives Matter and says it wants to be 'more inclusive'

The NMI is made up of four museum sites, three in Dublin and one in Castlebar.

The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks.
The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM of Ireland (NMI) has said it wants to be a “more inclusive museum” and has cited the influence of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Representatives from NMI will address TDs and Senators at the Oireachtas Tourism and Culture Committee today about plans for the post-Covid recovery of the museum sector. 

A briefing note about these plans says the NMI needs to focus “on inclusivity and our local and domestic communities – not just international tourists”.

The National Museum of Ireland is made up of four separate museum sites, three in Dublin and the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar. 

In her opening statement, NMI chair Catherine Heaney will say that “political engagement in our dialogue on an inclusive museum” will need to set targets that “go far beyond visitor numbers”, adding that museums play a role in maintaining the “well-being of communities”.

As we move out of the pandemic, we want to bring more rigour and discussion to the concept of the inclusive museum. We know that cultural institutions play a critical role in creative place-making and are important elements of our overall cultural ecosystem, and in turn the health and wellbeing of communities.

The statement adds: “The Black Lives Matter movement, which became an active voice in the pandemic, has highlighted that museums across the globe have a distance to travel.”

The Black Lives Matter movement and the reckoning for racism it has brought has led to some museums around the world reevaluating some of the artefacts they display. 

In the UK, for example, the British Museum removed a bust of its founding father, the Irish-born physician Hans Sloane, due to his links with slavery in the 17th century. 

At today’s committee, the NMI will say that cultural institutions will play an important role in “the rebuilding of our society” but that this must “reflect the multiple identities of our communities”. 

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Business model

The NMI will also outline that museums need to “rethink business models” to ensure they are are “more sustainable” by “servicing their local communities better”, stating:

Museums as collectors; as curators; as spaces of well-being, as places of discussion about our future, and as instruments of community cohesion and education are all ripe for new consideration.

The NMI chair will also say that “an enhanced online offering” was a feature of its work during the pandemic but that this cannot be discarded in the future. 

“And while the museum worked very hard to reach audiences online during the pandemic, we know that building a high-quality online offering to complement physical programming will, in post pandemic life, be just as important in driving interest and outreach in our collections and work. There is a digital capacity gap in the cultural sector that will need to be bridged.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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