The creative programmes of reinvention and reinterpretation at the Pitt Rivers Museum show a much-loved Victorian space challenging perceptions of museums and galleries. We aim to be of personal relevance to every visitor and to welcome conversations about problematic pasts and presents to forge new, less violent futures.
This year in particular, that reinvention has become a quiet revolution, a year of transformation in how we told our story and invited others to tell theirs. We’re working with forced migrants to change the way we tell stories, offering opportunities to develop workplace skills, wellbeing and confidence in their new home. We worked with the Maasai here in the museum, and in contact with their elders via social media, to improve the way we talk about objects in the collections – and understand how some we hold are problematic. We’ve shared powerful photographs of memorials to the 1994 Rwandan genocide: Giving voice to the makers and caretakers seeking to remember the past and find healing to unimaginable pain.
By pairing unusual objects associated with health and the person, we’re finding creative ways to improve and humanise the everyday objects in our health system. In truth, we believe in caring for each other as much as caring for things.
To do that, we’re facing up to our history. We’re bringing in voices that many institutions, including ourselves, have silenced in the past.