This Insight looks at the temporary exhibition “We Capitalists. From Zero to Turbo” at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Germany, which was opened on 12 March 2020 and closed again two days later. The experience of lockdown was also sadly felt as a loss of voice, especially as the exhibition had the potential to serve as a meaningful commentary to aspects of the evolving COVID-19 crisis. This period of speechlessness clearly exemplified how exhibitions can or cannot be active, bringing the medium of the exhibition to its limits.
Over the last weeks, activists in Europe and the US attacked statues of figures perceived to be representations of colonialism, imperialism, and racism. Such symbolic acts inspired similar protests across a wide variety of national communities – those involved citing a need for immediate justice and reparations for historical wrongdoings. But will removal and destruction of monuments result in necessary structural and systemic changes? This piece argues that reforms of social, punitive, and economic policy are necessary if we are to transform removal into something more than a Pyrrhic victory. The application of restorative justice that permeates all systems is required.
“Equity, Empathy, and Ethics in Digital Heritage Practice and Research” is a joint project between the Institute for Cultural Practices and the School fo Social Sciences (University of Manchester), the iSchool, Faculty of Information (University of Toronto), The Manchester Museum, The Whitworth and the Museums and Heritage Services of the City of Toronto. It is funded by the Manchester-Toronto Research Fund.
As museums around the world have increasingly committed to making themselves digitally accessible to the public during lockdown, we have been flooded by new cultural content available online. While Italian museums have been mainly involved in a “broadcasting” approach, museums in other countries have strived to enable new and different engagement with audiences. What do these two approaches tell us about the roles museums want to fulfil and the relationship they want to create with their communities?
What can museums learn from other cultural institutions addressing conflict, memory and transitional justice to support communities during transitional periods? Art, culture and heritage play a fundamental role in restorative justice, due to its capacity to create healing bonds between victims, perpetrators, society and the State. Drawing on Colombia’s experience, Catalina Delgado Rojas highlights four actions that can inspire museums to provide comfort and support to communities transitioning to a post-pandemic world.
The last decade has seen a growing interest amongst museum professionals in developing a curatorial practice grounded in affect. In this Insight, Susana Sanchez-Gonzalez reflects on possible currents of affection that might be elicited by books during the pandemic, and how this may inform her research on the theory and practice of book exhibitions.
Jenny Marsden reflects on the work that has taken place with the Manchester Together Archive over the last 18 months, focusing on the volunteering programme to catalogue and digitise the material, and the visits and workshops that have helped the archive team understand more about how people would like to access and use the tributes in the archive. The insight also considers the public response to the Manchester Attack in 2017 in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Under the new norm of ‘social distancing’, cultural institutions around the world are facing one of the biggest challenges in their history. In South Korea, museums and art galleries have been allowed to open their doors after two months of shutdown as a result of the decreasing number of newly reported COVID-19 cases. Hyewon CHOI reports on how museums in South Korea have maintained engagement with audiences during lockdown, and how they are preparing to reopen their doors to visitors.
Helen Rees Leahy discusses the politics and provision of cultural access during and after the Coronavirus lockdown. Her focus is on museums in the UK and the challenges they face in ensuring and expanding equitable access in a society that is both united by the experience of the pandemic and also divided by inequalities of health, space, time and wealth.