Only a decade ago, the notion that museums, galleries and heritage organisations might engage in activist practice, with explicit intent to act upon inequalities, injustices and environmental crises, was met with scepticism and often derision. Seeking to purposefully bring about social change was viewed by many within and beyond the museum community as inappropriately political and antithetical to fundamental professional values. Today, although the idea remains controversial, the way we think about the roles and responsibilities of museums as knowledge based, social institutions is changing. Museum Activism examines the increasing significance of this activist trend in thinking and practice.

At this crucial time in the evolution of museum thinking and practice, this ground-breaking volume brings together more than fifty contributors working across six continents to explore, analyse and critically reflect upon the museum’s relationship to activism. Including contributions from practitioners, artists, activists and researchers, this wide-ranging examination of new and divergent expressions of the inherent power of museums as forces for good, and as activists in civil society, aims to encourage further experimentation and enrich the debate in this nascent and uncertain field of museum practice.

Museum Activism elucidates the largely untapped potential for museums as key intellectual and civic resources to address inequalities, injustice and environmental challenges. This makes the book essential reading for scholars and students of museum and heritage studies, gallery studies, arts and heritage management, and politics. It will be a source of inspiration to museum practitioners and museum leaders around the globe.

chapter 1|22 pages

Posterity has arrived

The necessary emergence of museum activism

part I|12 pages

Nurturing activism

chapter 4|11 pages

Dividing issues and mission-driven activism

Museum responses to migration policies and the refugee crisis

chapter 5|11 pages

Access as activism

Bringing the museum to the people

chapter 6|11 pages

Fossil fuel sponsorship and the contested museum

Agency, accountability and arts activism

chapter 8|13 pages

From the ground up

Grassroots social justice activism in American museums

chapter 9|11 pages

Spectacular defiance

chapter 10|12 pages

‘I’m gonna do something’

Moving beyond talk in the museum

part II|2 pages

Activism in practice

chapter 12|13 pages

Memory exercises

139Activism, symbolic reparation, and non-repetition in Colombia’s National Museum of Memory 1

chapter 13|12 pages

Auto agents

Inclusive curatorship and its political potential

chapter 14|10 pages

Museums as public forums for 21st century societies

A perspective from the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe

chapter 16|11 pages

Activism, objects and dialogues

Re-engaging African collections at the Royal Ontario Museum

chapter 17|11 pages

Museological activism and cultural citizenship

Collecting the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement

chapter 18|12 pages

Museums in the age of intolerance

chapter 19|12 pages

Activist practice through networks

A case study in museum connections

chapter 20|13 pages

Whose memories for which future?

Favela museums and the struggle for social justice in Brazil

chapter 21|11 pages

From vision to action

The journey towards activism at St Fagans National Museum of History

chapter 22|12 pages

Inside out/outside in

Museums and communities activating change

chapter 23|10 pages

Quiet is the new loud?

On activism, museums and changing the world

chapter 24|13 pages

Heritage and queer activism

part III|2 pages

Assessing activism

chapter 26|11 pages

Up against it

Contending with power asymmetries in museum work

chapter 27|11 pages

Taking a position

Challenging the anti-authorial turn in art curating

chapter 29|11 pages

Advocacy and activism

A framework for sustainability science in museums

chapter 30|11 pages

Narratives of transformation

Stories of impact from activist museums

chapter 31|10 pages

Memorial museums at the intersection of politics, exhibition and trauma

A study of the Red Terror Martyrs Memorial Museum

chapter 32|11 pages

‘I attack this work of art deliberately’

Suffragette activism in the museum

chapter 34|12 pages

Unprecedented times?

Shifting press perceptions on museums and activism