Decolonising the Museum: The case of the Imperial and Commonwealth Institutes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This article investigates the relationship between museums and decolonisation in the under-examined middle years of the twentieth century (c. 1945-1970). Focusing on London’s Imperial Institute and its successor, the Commonwealth Institute, it argues that material culture and museums not only reflected wider political change, but exercised agency on processes of decolonisation. Museums helped multiple stakeholders in both metropole and (ex)colony to trial and enact forms of decolonisation, neo-colonialism, independence and anti-colonial resistance and acted as microcosms of wider political encounters: the practices of display and acquisition allowed the subjects of a crumbling empire to retain a sense of control over the process of decolonisation, but importantly they also provided an arena for emerging powers from the former colonies to assert their own agendas and forced staff at such institutions to take this influence seriously. Drawing on extensive archival material representing the perspectives of the Institutes’ staff and their contacts in decolonising countries across the Commonwealth, the tensions, collaborations and ambivalence inherent in the relationship between museums and the high politics of decolonisation are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-201
JournalMuseum and Society
Volume11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Fingerprint

decolonization
museum
staff
colonial age
political change
ambivalence
twentieth century
stakeholder
contact
politics

Keywords

  • Decolonization
  • Museums
  • Imperial History, British Empire,

Cite this

@article{2c509386bf3d4ec29725d8b45688df9e,
title = "Decolonising the Museum: The case of the Imperial and Commonwealth Institutes",
abstract = "This article investigates the relationship between museums and decolonisation in the under-examined middle years of the twentieth century (c. 1945-1970). Focusing on London’s Imperial Institute and its successor, the Commonwealth Institute, it argues that material culture and museums not only reflected wider political change, but exercised agency on processes of decolonisation. Museums helped multiple stakeholders in both metropole and (ex)colony to trial and enact forms of decolonisation, neo-colonialism, independence and anti-colonial resistance and acted as microcosms of wider political encounters: the practices of display and acquisition allowed the subjects of a crumbling empire to retain a sense of control over the process of decolonisation, but importantly they also provided an arena for emerging powers from the former colonies to assert their own agendas and forced staff at such institutions to take this influence seriously. Drawing on extensive archival material representing the perspectives of the Institutes’ staff and their contacts in decolonising countries across the Commonwealth, the tensions, collaborations and ambivalence inherent in the relationship between museums and the high politics of decolonisation are explored.",
keywords = "Decolonization, Museums, Imperial History, British Empire,",
author = "Claire Wintle",
year = "2013",
language = "English",
volume = "11",
pages = "185--201",
journal = "Museum and Society",
issn = "1479-8360",
number = "2",

}

Decolonising the Museum : The case of the Imperial and Commonwealth Institutes. / Wintle, Claire.

In: Museum and Society, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2013, p. 185-201.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Decolonising the Museum

T2 - The case of the Imperial and Commonwealth Institutes

AU - Wintle, Claire

PY - 2013

Y1 - 2013

N2 - This article investigates the relationship between museums and decolonisation in the under-examined middle years of the twentieth century (c. 1945-1970). Focusing on London’s Imperial Institute and its successor, the Commonwealth Institute, it argues that material culture and museums not only reflected wider political change, but exercised agency on processes of decolonisation. Museums helped multiple stakeholders in both metropole and (ex)colony to trial and enact forms of decolonisation, neo-colonialism, independence and anti-colonial resistance and acted as microcosms of wider political encounters: the practices of display and acquisition allowed the subjects of a crumbling empire to retain a sense of control over the process of decolonisation, but importantly they also provided an arena for emerging powers from the former colonies to assert their own agendas and forced staff at such institutions to take this influence seriously. Drawing on extensive archival material representing the perspectives of the Institutes’ staff and their contacts in decolonising countries across the Commonwealth, the tensions, collaborations and ambivalence inherent in the relationship between museums and the high politics of decolonisation are explored.

AB - This article investigates the relationship between museums and decolonisation in the under-examined middle years of the twentieth century (c. 1945-1970). Focusing on London’s Imperial Institute and its successor, the Commonwealth Institute, it argues that material culture and museums not only reflected wider political change, but exercised agency on processes of decolonisation. Museums helped multiple stakeholders in both metropole and (ex)colony to trial and enact forms of decolonisation, neo-colonialism, independence and anti-colonial resistance and acted as microcosms of wider political encounters: the practices of display and acquisition allowed the subjects of a crumbling empire to retain a sense of control over the process of decolonisation, but importantly they also provided an arena for emerging powers from the former colonies to assert their own agendas and forced staff at such institutions to take this influence seriously. Drawing on extensive archival material representing the perspectives of the Institutes’ staff and their contacts in decolonising countries across the Commonwealth, the tensions, collaborations and ambivalence inherent in the relationship between museums and the high politics of decolonisation are explored.

KW - Decolonization

KW - Museums

KW - Imperial History, British Empire,

M3 - Article

VL - 11

SP - 185

EP - 201

JO - Museum and Society

JF - Museum and Society

SN - 1479-8360

IS - 2

ER -