From the Margins to the Core? Working with Culturally Diverse Communities at the V&A Museum

By Eithne Nightingale.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The V&A museum of art and design in London has just completed a three year £I million programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund entitled “ Capacity Building and Cultural Ownership Programme - working with culturally diverse communities.” Under the Hidden Histories strand of this programme the museum researched existing collections and developed new collections of relevance to diverse communities. This included historic collections of relevance to black British communities and people of diverse faiths and new collections related to diverse communities of the East End of London and Black and Asian theatre in the UK. The second strand focussed on making these collections accessible through a range of public programmes that attracted new audiences and contributed to intercultural understanding and social cohesion. Under the third strand the museum developed equitable partnerships with black and ethnic minority organisations, leading to skill sharing and capacity building of both mainstream and non mainstream organisations. These included such organisations such as Black Cultural Archives and the Anglo Sikh Heritage Trail. This paper will explore the programme’s impact on the museum’s core business and lessons learnt for both the V&A and the museum and heritage sector as a whole.

Keywords: Culturally Diverse Communities, Capacity Building, Cultural Ownership, Hidden Histories, Equitable Partnership, Margins to the Core

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.49-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 617.838KB).

Eithne Nightingale

Head of Diversity Strategy, Learning and Interpretation Division, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

I have responsibility for developing diversity strategy at the V&A museum of art and design in London. This is a cross museum role which entails working with all departments and areas of activity in order to develop a fully inclusive museum which considers all aspects of diversity - gender, class, ethnicity, faith, age, sexuality etc. The Museum has taken a lead role in relation to cultural diversity, drawing on its world collections and developing key partnerships with black and ethnic minority organisations in the UK. Previous to coming to the V&A I ran adult and community education, community development and inner city regeneration programmes in Hackney, one of the most culturally diverse boroughs in the UK. I have over thirty years experience of working on equality and diversity issues both in education, local government, community development and museums.


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