By Richard Wragg – Collections Manager
For the last few months, the Collections Team have been meeting for a reading group. The texts we have chosen to discuss have all had a focus on decolonisation, equality and diversity.
The reading group formed in response to the events of Summer 2020 – specifically the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter protests and the wider conversations that developed around the role of the heritage sector in explaining contested histories. We wanted to undertake decolonisation work with our collections, but it soon became apparent that many of us lacked the knowledge that is required to make systemic changes.
I won’t write about what has been discussed in the reading group but would like to highlight some general principles to which we adhere. The first is that the group is a safe space to explore and challenge ideas. We recognise that we will make occasional missteps in both thought and language and that the reading group is an opportunity to develop our knowledge in a supportive environment without fear of criticism. Although reading groups are often a leisure activity, we also undertook to meet during work time, and to consider the reading a work activity. Finally, we all agreed that the reading group would be a catalyst for change within our working practices.
The reading group is one of a number of activities in the Library related to decolonisation. Gradually, we are developing the knowledge and confidence to approach our work and collections with fresh perspective. New consideration is being given to how our collections are acquired, catalogued and accessed. We hope to update you on this work over the coming months.
For those who would like to learn more, some of the texts we have found particularly thought-provoking include:
David Olusoga, Black and British Migration – (requires University of Sussex login)
David Osa Admadasun, Black People Don’t Go To Galleries –
Rachael Minott, The Past is Now (requires University of Sussex login)
The Library has also developed a Decolonisation reading list