Indigenous Engagement Policy adopted by Hastings Museum & Art Gallery
Hastings Museum & Art Gallery's new Indigenous Engagement Policy, developed in collaboration with the Universities of Kent and East Anglia's Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project Beyond the Spectacle, has been approved by Hastings Borough Council.
Working with Beyond the Spectacle researcher, Jack Davy and indigenous people, the museum has created an approach that can be adopted by other museums, who have limited resources but want to make a difference.
Hastings Museum & Art Gallery maintains one of the most important Native American collections in this UK. Mostly collected by locals and people associated with Hastings such as Colin Taylor, Edward Blackmore, Clare Sheridan and Randal & Beatrice Callander, it is displayed across three galleries.
The policy sets out the principles the museum will follow when Indigenous people visit the museum or request information about the collections. It includes simple guidelines of what is expected of the museum team to create interactions that are considered best-practice for cultural engagements with Indigenous communities.
The policy aims to make sure the museum will listen to Indigenous partners, have clear processes that Indigenous communities can follow, will devote resources to ethical Indigenous engagement, ensure visits are sensitively planned and that the policy applies across all collection areas and uses.
Councillor Colin Fitzgerald, lead cabinet member?for Regeneration, Culture and Tourism?at Hastings Borough Council, said,
"This is an excellent piece of work. The policy is a very welcome development, which ensures Indigenous communities are part of the conversation surrounding the Native American collection. We're very pleased to adopt the policy and are especially glad that the museum can be one of the few making these important steps forward."
Professor David Stirrup, Principal Investigator for Beyond the Spectacle at the University of Kent said,
"The Beyond the Spectacle research team and Board of Advisers are delighted to welcome this positive change in practice by Hastings Museum & Art Gallery. This policy places Indigenous-centred ethical relationships at the heart of curatorial practice. It puts the museum among a small handful of institutions in the UK that are seeking pro-actively to change the way both British public and Indigenous communities understand and interact with their collections."
Damian Etherington, Museum & Cultural Development Manager of Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, said
"It's important for smaller museums, not only to be part of conversations that are going on about decolonisation and representation, but also to take action where they can. This policy is a first small step towards us doing that. Over the next few years we are committed to continuing to develop as an organisation to become a truly forward-thinking museum that is here for the communities we serve. This includes looking at ways of securing funding to continue working with Indigenous communities."
Jack Davy, Beyond the Spectacle researcher, said,
"This policy is a significant step in formalising better approaches to Indigenous audiences in the UK museum sector."
The development of the policy and the research that underpins it will be published by Cambridge University Press. 'Native Americans in UK Museums: Living Histories' by Jack Davy will be available in 2021.