Sunday 14 March 2021


The Power of Museums – United Kingdom 

Skills transference workshop by Natalie Crompton (Touchstones Indra) on 5 February (partially funded by National Arts Council SA)

written by Luyanda Makoba-Hadebe, CCMS, UKZN

Natalie Crompton from Touchstones Rochdale (Indra) delivered a thought-provoking workshop that examined the power of a museum and how that can influence ideas of knowledge and culture. ARROWSA South to North arts, culture, and heritage for social change (SAUKINIDA) project transference skills workshop. Natalie is an Engagement Specialist working in both Heritage and Youth Theatre settings and a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Salford. The title for Natalie's workshop was: The Power of Museums,

Natalie facilitating the workshop

A museum is a collection of objects or items of significance that are identified as necessary. It plays an integral role in preserving the history of society. Their exhibits tell us stories about "how our nations, our communities, and our cultures came to be, and without them, those stories could be forgotten”  (Anon., 2019). They also offer a glimpse into the future by showing us our past. They can provide profound learning experiences for museum visitors

Natalie’s workshop skilfully dug into why it is essential to understand that museum exhibits are not without their cultural and societal blind spots. The existence of a museum exhibit existence creates accepted knowledge. This leads to creating what is acceptable as being relevant and vital. Probing questions in the workshop were used to that showed how important the museum exhibition's curator is. The questions she asked were:

·         Has a museum ever had an impact on you?

·         Who decides what goes into the museum?

·         What would you have in your museum?


Rianna of Gorsehill Studios and a participant engaging in the workshop

These questions then become who curates the exhibits and to whom these items are essential. When creating a museum exhibition, the curator makes decisions regarding which objects to choose for display. Natalie used a great analogy to show how important a curator is when she asked the group to curate a biscuit museum. This question's discussion led to everyone agreeing that they might leave out oatmeal biscuits as they do not like how they taste. This is the personal blind spot that can lead to a biscuit that could otherwise be particularly important not being included in the exhibition.


Ayanda of Bergtheil Museum, eThekwini Local History Museums shares her experience 

The workshop concluded with showing why there is a need for diverse curators with a wider perspective will make sure decisions that are made about what is included as 'knowledge' on a topic are authentic and informed.  There is a need to understand why and how to curate museums in the way that we do.


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