Black Lives Matter
12 June 2020
On 2 June, Exeter City Council Leader Phil Bialyk expressed the council’s support for Black Lives Matter saying, “It’s important that everyone takes time to pause and reflect on the horrific death of George Floyd and the ongoing global situation. On behalf of the city of Exeter I would like to offer our thoughts to everyone affected by these awful events.
“Exeter is proud to be a safe and welcoming city with many vibrant and diverse communities. We will not stand for any form of discrimination, hate speech or racially motivated activity and that is why we stand united with the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a time when we should be coming together and I would encourage anyone, regardless of their race, who feels upset by what they have seen to use the many avenues open to them such as signing petitions, supporting charities in their communities and to embrace other communities. Silence in my view is compliance and we must all stand together to be part of the solution and ensure that there is justice for all.”
Here at the museum, as a council service, we fully support the Leader’s statement and have taken a moment to consider our institution’s response to Black Lives Matter to make sure that it demonstrates a real commitment to change.
As a publicly-funded cultural organisation, we acknowledge that we have a role to play in taking a stand against institutional and systematic racism in Britain. We want the museum to be a place of wonder and exploration for everyone, a place that provokes debate, that connects people to the world and inspires them to shape a better future. Museums are uniquely placed to do this. We know that black people are still under-represented in our visitors and audiences, often feeling that the museum is not for them as it does not represent their lived experience. We are committed to changing this.
Like many other institutions founded in the Victorian era, the museum cannot avoid its link with Britain’s colonial history and there are a number of objects in RAMM that stand as testament to the inhumane treatment of black people. Recent and ongoing research has shown us the extent to which the museum, the city of Exeter and the region engaged with and profited from the transatlantic slave trade. We also recognise how the roots of racism towards black communities are to be found in this centuries-long trade.
We will be exploring this in an exhibition, which was planned for this year but now due to Covid 19 opening next year. Aware of our own limitations as a predominantly white staff we are working with people from our local diverse communities to create this exhibition and to plan the associated events, to ensure that their voices are heard.
We are taking steps to address the barriers that often discourage black people’s engagement with the cultural sector through developing the museum’s creative case for diversity plan. We create opportunities for black artists and black freelancers and ensure that diverse voices are heard through temporary exhibitions and interventions in the galleries. We commit to continuing and building on this work.
We are committed to promoting a racially-diverse workforce, and monitor our progress. Our staff and volunteer profile currently exceeds the census percentage for the black, Asian and minority ethnic population in Devon and the South West. Our staff profile is slightly below that for Exeter. We carry out diversity training and unconscious bias training for all staff. We adhere to Exeter City Council’s equality and diversity policy and will not accept any form of racism, harassment, bullying or discrimination in our staff.
In summary, we make the following commitments:
- To ensure our workforce represents our local population and people of colour do not experience racism or micro-aggressions in the workplace. This includes building on our staff training programmes around diversity and unconscious bias
- To support black artists and freelancers by providing commissions and creative opportunities
- To offer opportunities for people of colour to gain skills through our widening participation internships, skills development programme and youth panel
- To work with people of colour to ensure that their voices are heard in the museum, through our displays, temporary exhibitions and public programme
We recognise there is much more to be done and welcome the challenge from the Black Lives Matter movement. We would like to continue the conversation with local people of colour to understand what other changes are required to ensure that RAMM is truly accessible, open and inclusive for everyone.