Nature Read in Black and White: An Update

Presented by Miranda Lowe, Natural History Museum and Subhadra Das, University College
London.

Abstract

There has been an enthusiastic uptake of ideas and practices around decolonising the natural history museum in the wake of the publication of our paper ‘Nature Read in Black and White: Decolonial Approaches to Natural History Collections’ in the NatSCA Journal in 2018. People have written blogs, there have been exhibitions relating to the topic and even the Daily Mail scare quoted cancel culture fears when they heard the Natural History Museum in London was reviewing the colonial histories of its collections. A highlight moment was when Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, complimented one of the co-authors of the
paper, saying he had read all sixteen pages and how it was accessible and easy to read. We are gladdened by the national and international impact of our words and research, and this has encouraged us to reflect on this success and raise some other related issues that we would like to share with you in this keynote presentation. In addition to listing recent successes within our own organisations and some plans for future work, we also plan to talk about two further topics about decolonising natural history museums. The first will consider the colonial roots and context of the environmentalist movement, while the second will examine the question of representation in the natural history museum workforce. We will consider the current state of the discourse around decolonising museums, and discuss what continues to be required in the interests of long-term, equitable change.

About the authors

Miranda Lowe is a principal curator and scientist at the Natural History Museum, London ensuring collections management and care for the Museum’s crustacea and cnidaria marine invertebrate collections. She presents lectures and publishes on both curatorial and scientific research, with related appearances on radio and TV. Her work with creative industries allows her to link art, science and nature to aid the public understanding of natural world. With an avid interest in the history of natural history she helps to reveal and recognise contributions of those underrepresented black voices within natural history and science. As a STEM Ambassador she is passionate about ensuring diversity and social justice at all levels and works with various charities mentoring young people as future advocates for museums and the planet. m.lowe@nhm.ac.uk / @NatHistGirl

Subhadra Das is a writer, historian, broadcaster, comedian and museum curator at UCL Culture where she works with the UCL Pathology and Science Collections. She regularly talks to diverse audiences in classes, seminars, lectures, public talks and stand-up comedy about all aspects of her work from collections management to working with human remains. Her main area of research is the history of science and medicine in the 19th and 20th Centuries, specifically the history of eugenics and scientific racism. She uses museum objects to tell decolonial stories in engaging and affirming ways. subhadra.das@ucl.ac.uk / @littlegaudy

Key Note Presentation at the ‘Decolonising Natural Science Collections’ NatSCA online conference, 19 November 2020.

One thought on “Nature Read in Black and White: An Update

  1. Pingback: Review: Decolonising Natural Science Collections Conference 2020 | NatSCA

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