Inclusive Histories - Monlife

Inclusive histories – The power of collections to bring communities together.

Heritage plays a significant role in improving wellbeing, and many people consider it to be an important part of their identity and culture. Socially, museums and their collections can contribute to an area’s identity, creating impact beyond economic value. It also has cultural, social, and environmental benefits.

Why inclusive histories?

Monmouthshire Museums have been awarded funding by Welsh Government as part of their work to deliver the #Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan. This work will look at objects within our collections at Abergavenny and Chepstow that relate to empire, slavery, and colonialism as well as items that relate to other lesser told stories. We will also deliver a series of events and activities with our communities, to develop exhibitions, interpretation, and learning resources.

The phrase ‘Anti-Racist’ can trigger an emotional response, due to the difficult conversations and societal troubles that we have been witnessing in the media and in real life. Our museums and attractions have the potential to tell those stories that are bold and explore our links to slavery and social injustice. There has been a lot of research to establish the right way to present information, and this project will use this research to inform how we capture and present information about some of the objects held in our collections. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to begin layering new ways to share our history.

Creating a community project is not a new idea, but by focusing on the collections in Monmouthshire, we are able to deliver a new, and interactive programme of work to show our commitment to change. Telling these stories and engaging people about our shared past is a powerful way to bring about a positive change in attitude to our past and create a shared future.

When will the project happen?

We are running a public programme from October 2023, for one year, and will focus on the collections at Abergavenny and Chepstow.

Over the next 12 months you will see a series of changing displays at Abergavenny and Chepstow Museums. We will be displaying objects that give us an opportunity to discuss themes that highlight the diversities of social history within our collections. Objects in museums can create an emotional response and we want to find the right way to acknowledge these emotions, sharing the heritage of the area and creating records and displays that better involves our communities. This means understanding the people that visit our museums.

We know that interactions with heritage can enrich people’s lives, give them skills and experiences to become more confident and give people a real sense of pride once they realise the amazing heritage, is something we are all a part of. By looking at ‘Objects in Focus’ we can explore a range of diverse social themes, which represent our wider communities, and the challenges ahead we are all facing. It addresses a need identified in Wales’s Race Equality Action Plan and delivers against the Programme for Government objective to ‘Ensure the history and culture of our Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic communities are properly represented by investing further in our cultural sector and museum network.’

In this project we are inviting you to look at our exhibitions and give your thoughts about what you see. This will help us to better understand what you want from our museums and make sure we talk about our collections in a balanced way.

To create a successful project, we will be listening to our communities across the county. We also invite our museum visitors to share their thoughts, so please visit Abergavenny and Chepstow Museums to see our objects in focus, which are also available online. Our Collections. The objects seen over the next 12 months, will be displayed in one combined exhibition in spring 2025, using interpretation collected from responses which share the lived experiences of our communities and museum visitors.

Please also look out for the question we would like you to answer. We would also like you to share any other thoughts you may have about the objects you see.

A key partnership for our project is with Race Council Cymru (RCC), established in 2010 with the mission to bring together key organisations within Wales. The RCC is an umbrella organisation that represents over 130 ethnic minority community groups across Wales. It works strategically with public bodies, local authorities, and large and small organisations to promote diversity and to tackle racism and hate crime.

We will also be working with existing groups such as our Local History Societies, to ensure we have advocacy across the region. This is important, because lines of communication should include everyone who may be affected by any changes or conversations around inclusivity and diversity. Sharing stories and experiences will strengthen the identity of the areas we are working with, as well as the way we interpret our collections.

  • Collections Report on Empire, Slavery and Colonialism Artefacts, Abergavenny Museum 2022
  • Collections Report for the Race Equality Action Plan Project, Chepstow Museum 2022
  • Connections to slavery and empire, Dr Marian Gwyn February 2022

This post is also available in: Welsh