Expert advice on a stronger inclusive nature of national museum exhibitions

In this blog, I give valuable advice on how museums can create a strong inclusive nature of their exhibition.  Inclusiveness can namely be seen as one of the fundaments on which the postcolonial museum is based.

Criticism towards hierarchy in national museums’ material display

As mentioned in my previous blog, the postcolonial museum revolves around difference and aims to foster multiple meaning-making, social change and mutual respect. However, much criticism is received on how national museums still seem to display hierarchy in their material display. In doing so, exhibitions are dominating certain knowledge and values that form and sustain a favoured national identity. Yet, national identities are by no means an image of current society, especially not in our multicultural western world.

Reflecting on a postcolonial national identity

Audiences from diverse cultural backgrounds remain feeling excluded and underexposed in many dominant museum narratives. For example, the Rijksmuseum’s permanent art collection around Dutch colonialism or the Tropenmuseum’s current permanent exhibition ‘Dutch East Indies’. Therefore, the need to create an exhibition of stronger inclusive nature is vital to reflect a postcolonial national identity. Such exhibitions are created with the focus on recovering disregarded or misinterpreted information, dignifying the underrepresented perspectives and acting receptive to various audiences.

How to create an exhibition of stronger inclusive nature?

This is not an easy answer. Exhibitions inherently reflect a selection of what is wished to be preserved, narrated and displayed, which means that all exhibitions are exclusive by nature. Though, a few aspects should be considered:

  • In the development of an exhibition, museums need to work more intensively with communities and people from diverse ethnic backgrounds in the attempt to obtain a more cohesive and holistic understanding of the display.
  • The postcolonial museum underscores the believe that curators do not carry the sole authority to impose their perspective on visitors. Therefore, they should discuss and interact with diverse communities, professionals and other museums. Through such discussions and interactions, possible misinterpretations, misrepresentations and misunderstanding are limited.
  • Objects and narratives that are connected to colonialism need to be reconceptualised as a requirement to aim for multiple meaning-making, community building, and cross-cultural understanding.

Achieve a stronger inclusive exhibition

As confirmed by scholars in the field, an approach to achieve a stronger inclusive exhibition could be to consult with groups of various socio-cultural identities on the contents and display of the narrative and objects. Input from these communities serves a co-creational display and advocates for a representation of the postcolonial identity.

Do not miss my next blog, where I will share outcomes of one of my latest researches on this subject, which is focused on the Rijksmuseum and Tropenmuseum.