Where Next for the World Cultures gallery?

10 April 2019 by Emma Martin

If you’ve visited World Museum you’ll know the World Cultures gallery has incredible collections from Africa, Asia, Oceania and The Americas, but the presentation is now out of date and perpetuates stereotypes and assumptions about people and places. I am one of a group of people working in the museum who is increasingly questioning the relevance of these displays and thinking about new ways to use objects to understand our collective past, present and future.

We agree that the gallery needs to change, but the question is how to do it?

We decided early on that we didn’t want to answer this question by ourselves. Therefore, the first change we’ve made is to build a space so we can talk to you. In the gallery, you will soon find an area where you can reflect on and discuss the displays with us, and, perhaps, with other visitors to the gallery. We want to know what you think of the gallery now, and also what you think as the gallery starts to change. Tell us what works, and importantly, tell us what doesn’t. We also want to ask you a number of questions over the coming months and your responses will help us identify the issues and ideas we need to address in the gallery.

We are going to share updates on the things we are doing behind the scenes and as your feedback and questions come in we will respond to them both in the gallery and online, so look out for our posts, shorts videos and pictures. We will listen and respond to what you are saying.

If you cannot visit the gallery then start a conversation using #WMWhereNext

You can find us on Twitter @World_Museum / Facebook worldmuseum  / Instagram @worldmuseum_

We hope that some of the first things you’ll want to talk to us about are a group of ‘provocations’ that we will build into the gallery over the next 12 months. Last year we started working with a group of inspiring and creative people from outside the world of museums who are provoking us to think differently about what we do and how we think about NML’s World Cultures collection.

Assistant Curator Alex discussing objects with Daliso Chaponda

Assistant Curator Alex discussing objects with Daliso Chaponda in the museum store, February 2019.

They include:

The artist and filmmaker, Leo Asemota

The comedian, Daliso Chaponda,

The poet and TIDE visiting writer, Sarah Howe

Filmmakers and producers Belle Vue Productions are documenting our collaborations and you’ll be able to watch their short films on our website and in the gallery.

Collectively, we are producing documentaries, comedy routines and poetry based on the collections and their histories, which will change the way we display the collections. These ‘provocations’ are going to be theatrical, imaginative and  in some cases argumentative as we begin to expose the difficult and contested histories of the collections by talking openly about how objects from around the world came to Liverpool.

This is just the beginning, so let’s start a conversation and see where it takes us. In the process let’s decide where next for the World Cultures gallery.

  1. DEREK COX says:

    Having recently visited the collection, yes I would agree that the presentation of these significant objects could be improved – it is a bit like a museum of curiosities at presents.

    This is a great initiative and I look forward to following it as it evolves.


  2. Tracey says:

    Very disappointed with the museum. Apart from the Egyptian galleries, and there are so many much better collections than this, it seems to be just lots of odd bits scattered about and Europe doesn’t get much of a look in. Worst of all the one truly interesting thing the museum has, the Kingston Brooch, is shoved a the bottom of a cabinet with some other Anglo-Saxon items. So low down that one has to sit on the floor to see the objects. Some old fashioned typed up cards which provide very little information. I totally understand why the British Museum in London keeps the best things if provincial galleries can’t get the basics right. If the Anglo-Saxon collection is so disregarded why not give it to a proper museum so that it can be appropriately displayed? Manchester seems pretty good. Birmingham as a fine Anglo-Saxon section so you could give it to them.

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