MuseumNext Europe 2018: Don't deflect responsibility on the issue of diversity
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MuseumNext Europe 2018: Don't deflect responsibility on the issue of diversity

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Diversity was among the topics up for discussion at this year's MuseumNext conference in London, with Shaz Hussain, assistant curator at the London Science Museum, telling delegates not "deflect responsibility" on the issue.

At the 2017 edition of the conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Hussain – who is also freelance consultant working to improve the representation of people of colour across the arts and heritage sector – challenged attendees to think about the word ‘diversity’ and what that meant.

In her 2017 talk, Hussain said that 'diversity' suggests a museum and its white, middle-class audiences are normal, with anyone else considered to belong to 'other' categories. She added that the word 'diversity' should be replaced by 'representation', with the sector's goal to strive and represent an entire community.

"Last year I got up on stage and basically trashed museums, talking about how much I hate when they use the word 'diversity'," she said, speaking at the 2018 edition of the European conference.

"I challenged everyone to think of a way they could make a difference. I hopefully showed you that, in your own small way, you can use your own power to create change."

From her talk in Rotterdam, Hussain received support from across the museum sector, with messages, phone calls and people speaking to her in person, asking what they could do to make change happen.

"I receive lots of messages every week asking me to take part in projects," she said. "I have people approach me from some big heavyweight museums across the UK, Europe and the US, and I've been approached by some of the top universities to talk about racism and ethnic diversity.

"I don't tell you this to brag – actually I'm exhausted. Despite being a curator, I never get asked to speak about collections, I only get asked to speak about ethnic diversity and racism, and doing that every day is not fun.

"All the conversations I've been having, none of it is new, none of it is innovative. I'm not special, I'm not your poster girl for ethnic diversity.

"People of colour will not carry the load and that means you have to do some work. You can't deflect your responsibility.

"Next time you slide into my DMs maybe think hard about if you're asking me to solve your problems or if you're coming to me to tell me about what you're already doing."

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Diversity was among the topics up for discussion at this year's MuseumNext conference in London, with Shaz Hussain, assistant curator at the London Science Museum, telling delegates not "deflect responsibility" on the issue.
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