fbpx
Menu
Search Subscribe

Search Museum Next

Shaz Hussain on ‘diversity’ and changing the language we use in museums

‘If you really want to make a significant change, start with the language you use’, that was the quote Shaz Hussain, Collections Assistant at The Royal Airforce Museum in London started her presentation with at MuseumNext Europe.

In her five minute presentation she spoke about her first year working in the museum sector, ‘I was told very early in my museum career that I was different, I was diverse, what I took that to mean was I was brown, I was young and I was not educated enough and that was different, that was what the museum sector was lacking’.

She challenged delegates to think about the word ‘diversity’, and what that meant.

Reflecting on her museum traineeship in Norfolk, she said, ‘In my organisation I couldn’t make a significant change, I was the most junior person in the organisation, I wasn’t a budget holder, I didn’t have anyone who I was managing, so I decided to change the language that I used.’

Shaz shared the changes that she had made:

Diversity > Representation
Shaz said that ‘diversity’ suggests that the museum and it’s white, middle class audiences are normal and anything else is other. Instead we should talk about representing the whole community.

Creating Spaces > Inclusion
Shaz said that rather than a museum ‘creating spaces’ for different audiences, they should talk about inclusion. Making the museum a space for everyone.

Audiences > Partners
Shaz said that audiences is passive, but partners suggests that museums and their visitors are collaborators working together.

Hidden Stories > The Whole Story
Who are our stories hidden from? During her time in Norfolk Shaz didn’t feel the region’s stories were hidden from local people so changed this to the whole story.

Giving a Voice To > Having a Conversation With
Shaz said that ‘Giving a voice to’ can sound very patronising, and that instead a museum should have a conversation.

She ended her presentation by challenging museum professionals to think about the language that they use, and recognise the power of what we call things.

You can watch the whole presentation below:

 

How have you changed the language that you use in your museum?

Related Content

Film: Mad Facts on Copyrighting Fury Road

Jason Scott is an American archivist, historian of technology, and filmmaker. He is the creator, owner and maintainer of textfiles.com, a web site which archives...

Film: How can Museums use Virtual Reality?

Find more examples in this article on How museums are using virtual reality. – Virtual reality has been going through yet another cyclical revival driven...

Film: In Conversation with Tristram Hunt

Jasper Visser sits down with Dr Tristram Hunt, Director of V&A at MuseumNext London in June 2019 to talk about the expansion of the V&A,...

Subscribe to the latest museum thinking

Fresh ideas from museums around the globe in your inbox each week