Journal Article

  • Nature Read in Black and White: decolonial approaches to interpreting natural history collections
    Das, S., Lowe, M.
    Journal of Natural Science Collections, Volume 6, pages 4 - 14

    Narratives about the history of collecting are commonly absent from the interpretation of natural history collections. In this paper, we argue this absence – particularly in relation to colonial histories – perpetuates structural racism within modern society by whitewashing a history where science, racism, and colonial power were inherently entwined. This misrepresentation of the past is problematic because it alienates non-white audiences. Using examples from a single natural history collection – the Natural History Museum, London (NHM) – we will demonstrate how an existing collection retains these colonial ideologies and narratives, and, as such, can be used at the centre of decolonial approaches to interpreting natural history collections. We propose that publicly acknowledging difficult pasts is an important first step in creating less racist museum interpretation in natural history museums.

    Keywords: Structural racism; decolonial approaches; history of science; natural history; curation; museum interpretation; museum ethics; acknowledgement; social justice