The University of Cambridge Museums are committed to ensuring that all our work, and the way we do it, is as inclusive as possible.
As University museums and collections, being true to our mission means questioning and seeking to expand our knowledge about our collections, adding new perspectives and layers of understanding.
Researching the collections, and sharing what we find
This includes understanding their histories in their fullest sense through our research practice, including broadening the questions that we ask of our collections and the partners we work with, and ensuring we make new information available for future generations of researchers through publicly accessible databases and records. We’ll share what we find through public programming, teaching, learning, exhibitions and interpretation, and online, working with creative practitioners and our communities to create work that is most relevant to them.
Collaborating with our communities is key
Collaboration is at the very heart of what we do as university museums: scholarship is at its most innovative when generated by partnership, collaboration and more active involvement from our communities, particularly communities of origin. Museum work is at its most meaningful when it reflects the needs of the communities we serve and we want to ensure it is accessible by everyone.
As is developing our workforce
This work involves all of our colleagues, and we are working to ensure that they and senior leaders are equipped through training and support to do this work; and that we are part of conversations across the cultural and Higher Education sectors nationally and internationally. Our approach to inclusive practice draws on the participation of colleagues from across our organisation and the guidance of critical friends.
Our workforce at present is not representative of our wider population. Steps to address this include providing a variety of accessible pathways into museum work and in the longer term, working with the University’s widening participation initiative and schools to support the pipeline of future researchers and museum professionals.
Our commitment and approach to this work is outlined in full in our Inclusivity & Relevance Policy, and sits within the approach of the wider University of Cambridge.
Our work in this area includes:
- Developing long-term partnerships with communities most in need in our City and region, and those who work with them; and improving physical and intellectual access to our collections
- Creating new forums for discussion and exchange with communities both locally - including our Community Panel - and internationally through programmes such as [Re:]Entanglements, which brought together partners in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the UK to explore colonial-era collections
- Creating links between origin and diaspora communities through the works of art and material culture in our collections - for example, through the Magdalene Odundo in Cambridge exhibition.
- Maintaining a transparent approach to the return of museum objects
- Expanding our understanding of the University’s collections through research into the histories, among others, of gender, sexuality, colonialism, and exploring how they intersect with current global challenges such as racism and the climate crisis
- Programming that explores these topics, including a forthcoming exhibition exploring the legacies of enslavement, and community collaboration through programmes such as Museum Remix and Bridging Binaries
Find out more about this work on the UCM Collections in Action Blog