Policy Review: a review of museum decolonisation policy across the island of Ireland
Keywords:museum decolonisation, Ireland, Northern Ireland, empire
There is currently no explicit decolonisation policy concerning Irish museums. This review provides an overview of current decolonial work scholarship and professional museum work in museums across the island of Ireland. Irish museums hold tangible and intangible testimony of how Irish people were involved in the violence of empire-making. Ireland's legacy in British empire building is challenging and often ignored by historians because Ireland was also a victim of colonialism. Ireland's complex entanglement with empire-making is perhaps one reason why there are no explicit policies concerning the decolonisation of museums in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. Instead, efforts to decolonise are written within broader policies concerning inclusion and diversity or only considered in temporary exhibitions. This review article explores recent academic scholarship and endeavours related to professional museum practice to understand current decolonial activity in the Irish museum sector. The review advocates for more decolonial work and policy-making that considers the nuances of Ireland and the British Empire. However, I acknowledge the numerous barriers to a genuine decolonising of the museum stem from a reliance on precarious, low-paid or volunteer staff that results in ethnic minorities and working-class people being excluded from entering museum work and a lack of funding in the sector. Still, this review article recognises that despite the lack of job security, staff diversity and funding, museum professionals and academics are conducting rigorous research concerning Ireland and colonialism.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Emma McAlister
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