Political innovation in, against and beyond art galleries, museum and heritage organisations

The Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage is launching a new events series this term, on the theme of ‘museum legitimacies’.

The question of the legitimacy of art galleries, museums and heritage organisations is being posed increasingly loudly. Long standing attempts to reform are now being framed by strikes, demonstrations, occupations but also by increasing government oversight and policy constraint.

Negotiating between the politics of representational legitimacy via the state, delegated authority to professionals and participatory politics has for many decades now been core institutional work. Yet the present moment has exposed and generated vulnerabilities in the political constitution of art galleries, museums and heritage organisations.

In this new series exploring political innovation in, against and beyond art galleries, museum and heritage organisations, we will connect a range of debates often not well connected.

These range from new approaches to practice, democratic innovation beyond trustee and arms-length models, DIY and mutual aid, co-operatives and community benefit societies to defunding and abolition.

Each online session will pose the key question: what does ‘legitimacy’ mean for art galleries, museums and heritage organisations?

Speakers include Michael Saward (Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick) and Ed Vaizey — former Conservative Minister of Culture (2010-2016).

All sessions in the Museum Legitimacies Event Series are free to attend and open to all.

Further information about each one, including how to book, can be found by following the links below:

Ed Vaizey — The government’s ‘anti-woke’ agenda and the future of the arm’s length principle
27 October, 4-5pm

Michael Saward — Democratic Design
1 November, 4-5.30

Democratic Design for Museums, Galleries and Heritage: Workshop Discussion
2 November, 3.30-5pm


Creative Commons ‘Black Lives Matter – The Museum of the Home, Hackney’ by Alan Denney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

One flash point in the government’s development of the ‘retain and explain’ position were the protests related to the Museum of the Home’s ultimate decision to retain the statue of Sir Robert Geffrye an English merchant who made part of his money from his investment in transatlantic slavery. This picture depicts one of the protests.

More information of the context of the Museum of the Home’s decision.