Journal Article

  • Decolonising Manchester Museum’s mineral collection – a call to action
    Gelsthorpe, D.
    Journal of Natural Science Collections, Volume 9, pages 12 - 28

    The history of Black and Indigenous peoples, and the role of empire in most museum
    natural history collections is largely unresearched and not acknowledged in displays. This study analyses the reach of empire in Manchester Museum’s mineral collection, uncovers colonial stories, and exposes structural racism in the museum sector. New data analysis of the mineral collection reveals that 24% of the collection comes from countries that were previously colonised. 50% of the Museum’s minerals from the British Empire are Australian, of which 33% came from the Imperial Institute. A new mineral display gave opportunity for focussed contextual research into South African gold ore and Sierra Leone diamonds.
    Archive photographs from the early 1900s are used in the display to tell the story of the people who mined the Museum’s South African gold ore specimens. Recent research and the Museum’s Sierra Leone diamond are used to tell the story of diamond mining today and the colonial legacy.

    Institutional approaches, whereby time and resources are not committed to researching colonial histories and complex colonial stories, mean that these histories are not researched and do not get past exhibition editing process, meaning this practice continues. This paper is a call to action to change this.

    Keywords: Minerals, Manchester, Decolonisation, Empire, Gold, Diamonds, South Africa, Sierra Leone