Black Lives Matter Charter for the UK heritage sector

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A bronze sculpture of a grinning balding white man dressed in upper-class clothing with the label "Robt Milligan" on its base is being pulled up by a thick green belt attached to a crane.
Culture& welcomes the statements of ‘solidarity’ with the Black Lives Matter campaign by arts and heritage organisations in the UK and we urge those who did not do so to make their positions clear. However, we do not believe that such statements are credible unless they are backed up with actions which we recommend below.

Culture&’s Board of Trustees, staff and New Museum School trainees therefore call on our partners and the wider arts and heritage sectors to make clear their position on Black Lives Matter by committing to make the following changes in order to decolonise their relationship with the UK Black community and their workforce, collections and programmes:

• The statements of horror about the killing of George Floyd in the US must be followed up by similar statements of support to the UK Black communities in relation to Black people who have died in similar circumstances in Britain

• Support decolonising collections and the imperial narratives around objects in museum collections that have supported or have been acquired by means of colonial aggression or with the profits of the transatlantic slave trade, must be identified as such, giving clear and explicit information to audiences on the history of the object and its acquisition, and how it came into the possession of the museum, investigating the reasons and deeper context

• Museums must make a commitment to the editing and rewording of racist artwork titles that include racially sensitive words or outdated descriptions of black people which are considered outdated in the present day

• Where collections or objects have been acquired by force or other means without consent, museums must start the process of restitution and repatriation to their rightful owners, and where museums have profited from the ownership and display of cultural property, they must make proportionate funds available to set up relationships of exchange and cooperation

• Arts and heritage organisations must be publicly accountable via their funders such as Race Equality Action Plans, Arts Council England and DCMS targets for their actions in relation to tackling institutional racism and decolonising their workforce by taking steps to deal with subconscious bias and ensure that staff at all levels are representative of the diversity of the UK population

• Arts and heritage organisations must devise programmes that appeal to Black people in our society by commissioning and supporting diverse contemporary curators and artists to make alternative interpretations to address the history and present-day issues around racism, prejudice and social exclusion

• Arts and heritage organisations must take steps to holistically protect the mental health, wellbeing, and lives of their Black workforce in relation to navigating and challenging racism, and acknowledging stress and trauma where it has occurred

• Arts and heritage organisations must take steps to protect the lives of their Black workforce and audiences who face disproportionate risks relating to COVID-19.

Image: Courtesy of The Guardian