Making African Connections: Decolonial Futures for Colonial Collections

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Sch of Global Studies

Abstract

Museums have been among the prime targets of recent activism demanding the 'decolonization' of British institutions, stimulated by Rhodes Must Fall and other campaigns. This is because their historic artefacts act as potent symbolic reminders of imperial afterlives. Some museums have responded with various initiatives to engage 'source' communities and in rare instances, dialogue has been initiated over returns. Yet small museums face acute cuts, dramatically reduced capacity and pressures for business models, in which colonial collections are far from priorities, especially where museums' very existence is under threat. In a climate of austerity, many are unable to invest in the research that is necessary to translate calls for 'decolonizing' into practical initiatives. Significant ethnographic holdings are thus unused and known, are displayed in a manner that occludes or inadvertently perpetuates coloniality and are inaccessible to Africans.

This interdisciplinary project will research historic African collections held in Sussex and Kent Museums with the aim of furthering both conceptual and applied debates over 'decolonizing' public institutions. It focuses on three specific collections of known international significance assembled between 1890 and 1940, whose journeys to the South coast began in military, missionary and ethnographic encounters in Botswana, Sudan and the Namibia/Angola borderlands. The project will extend debates in cultural geography, art history, museum studies and digital humanities, by adopting a critical, participatory, practice-based mode of research that builds new African connections through innovative digital and co-curation strategies. The regional focus stems from the revelation by the Arts Council-funded 'Uncovering ethnography in Kent and Sussex' project, that museums in the South-east had unused historic African collections of unanticipated scale and value. The diversity of these collections, held in very different sorts of museums, provides an ideal opportunity for responding to the Tropen Museum's (2017) call for recognition of complexity, not only in the histories of colonial holdings but also in potential 'decolonial' responses.

The project asks: What are the 'decolonial' possibilities for African collections in Sussex and Kent Museums, and how can these further debates over decolonizing British public institutions in both theory and practice? The research is based on collaboration with: three South coast museums (the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, The Royal Engineers Museum and the Powell-Cotton Museum of Natural History and Ethnography); African museums and heritage organizations (the Khama Memorial and Botswana National Museums, the Museums Association of Namibia and Al-Mahdiyya Restoration NGO), as well as UK-based African diasporic interest groups.

Through the research, a minimum of 600 artefacts will be digitized and (re)catalogued. The project will engage spatially dispersed publics in Britain and Africa by co-curating four displays (three in Sussex and Kent Museums, and the fourth in Botswana based on objects loaned from Brighton). An innovative interactive digital archive will link objects to contextual information and different interpretations, while a Wikimedian-in-residence will enable interaction with global publics via the world's foremost media repository. Creating intersections between Wikimedians, Continental- and diapora-based African interest groups and global scholarly networks will maximize new opportunities for knowledge exchange and greater cultural, historical and political understanding. Through both scholarly publications and policy briefings, the project will further cutting edge debates over how to redress colonial legacies and enable museums to meet twenty-first century goals of accessibility, inclusivity and social justice.

Planned Impact

Making African Connections targets the following non-academic beneficiaries:
1. Collaborating museums
a) Kent and Sussex museums will benefit from historical, digital and curatorial research on collections they have identified as internationally valuable yet poorly understood; in some cases, their artefacts will be catalogued and displayed for the first time. The research will bring them into a host of new networks: between museums in the region as well as with African museums; with academics and students; with spatially dispersed global publics and specialist interest groups in Africa and her diaspora. The project's digital component will bring new visibility to hitherto underused objects, in a manner that reflects agenda-setting and innovative methods to capture provenance data, diverse interpretations and on-going global responses. Institutions marginalised by current state funding regimes and disadvantaged by geographical locations outside major cities, some of which have struggled to position themselves centrally in debates over innovative museological practice will have the opportunity to co-design, trial and assess new initiatives for diverse colonial-era collections. This will enable them to further 'decolonizing' ambitions of twenty-first century British public institutions aspiring to meet ethical, inclusive, community-building roles, and to deal with imperial pasts in a manner that works towards justice in the present and future. They will benefit from the displays created by the project, Wikimedia training and afterlives ensured through the digital component.
b) African Museums. The Botswana National Museum and Khama Memorial Museum, which lack nineteenth century artefacts in their own collections will benefit from the loan of Brighton materials, enabling them to display these objects for the first time in Botswana, while archival research and digitizing of provenance and contextual data (derived from UK archives as well as new sources in Botswana and South Africa) will add to understanding of Botswana's transnational and regional cross border connections. This provides a unique opportunity to engage Botswana local publics in memory work and cutting edge debates over international partnerships, digital access and loaning. Curators will be brought into new relationships with Brighton Museum and other project stakeholders, including networks of Africanist scholars and local black history interest groups. The Museums Association of Namibia and the Heritage Association of Southern Africa will also benefit from the newly visible data and new connections.

2. African and African diasporic interest groups. The project's participatory design and engagement of spatially dispersed interest groups in African heritage is particularly timely in this UN decade of people of African descent. They stand not only to gain new insight into imperial connections and object journeys, but will also be central to their interpretation in the digital and curatorial aspects of the project. Co-researchers and curators of Botswanan, Namibian and Sudanese heritage and local black history groups will steer the research, production of digital resources and displays. Wikimedia training will empower these groups with knowledge and skills in cutting edge open access tools.

3. Broader British museum-visiting publics in the UK, global users of the digital archive and Wikimedia will gain insight to diverse imperial pasts, specific Africa connections and African perspectives thereon that do not mask the physical and epistemic violence of imperial expansion and domination, while also conveying complexity and allowing multiple interpretations.

4. Museum policy networks and organizations will benefit from the policy briefing on working with colonial collections to meet de-colonial ambitions. The project will reach UK, European and international museum professionals at the final workshop and conference presentations.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title 'When we were Bechuana' - exhibition at Khama III Memorial Museum, Botswana, launched 20 February 2021 
Description This is a new mobile display created by Khama III Memorial Museum curators and project members, Scobie Lekhutile and Gase Kediseng. It involves 10 panel display boards showing enlarged pictures of nineteenth century Tswana cultural artefacts, based on the digitized images of Brighton Museum's Botswana collection. These are combined with a new contemporary collection of objects similar to those in the images, which are produced locally today in Central Botswana, showing continuity in skills in basketware, leatherwork, and smithing. The exhibition invites local publics to reflect on a time when there was much local craft being produced, and on the skills and aesthetic qualities of the objects. It also challenges Tswana publics to reflect on what constitutes Tswana heritage, and on material culture before the predominance of imported European goods purchased from stores. The display is challenging because the initial reaction to such artefacts is often that 'they are not Tswana heritage' and are rather associated with San communities. But the research provided the evidence that these were items used by Tswana elders. The exhibition also draws on a rich array of historical photographic sources to contextualise the provenance and production of the objects in the late C19th at a time of great change. This re-situates the objects and enables their re-narration in relation to the local historical contexts of their original use and creation, rectifying the prior decontextualisation of the UK museum context. The exhibition is portable, and can be used in local schools. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact The impacts of this exhibition are in the new understandings it provides to Botswana publics of C19th Tswana heritage, challenging views of a racialised distinction between Tswana and San (which is a colonial legacy), and rather showing interconnected histories. The impacts will result from its showing in local schools, and to local publics over subsequent years. 
 
Title Blog series, Brighton Museum: Making African Connections 
Description This is a series of 7 blogs produced by Brighton Museum that accompany short film releases. They provide easily accessible, engaging blogs on research on C19th century Botswana artefacts today, continuities in craft production, and meanings for Botswana publics. They are a display substitute (as displays were disrupted by Covid-19), and will reach a wide audience of local Museum publics via the Museums' membership, as well as a broad audience of museum-interested publics beyond the locality. 
Type Of Art Creative Writing 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Enhanced awareness of local publics of Brighton's historic African collections, of the history of UK/Africa connections and their local salience, and of the continuities in craft production and interpretations of this heritage on the part of Botswanan collaborators and Southern African diaspora in the UK 
URL https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/category/projects/making-african-connections-2021/
 
Title Making African Connections - Meeting the Makers film series. 1) Introduction to the Project 2) Making Botswana: Woodcarvers 
Description These are the first two films of a series of 7 produced by Brighton Museum based on research in Botswana that provide contextual information on their C19th Botswana collections, aimed at a general public audience. The first two have been released (24 February) and remaining seven will be released by end March. They are a display substitute, as Covid-19 disrupted envisaged displays. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact Increased public understanding of Brighton Museum World Art Collections, and of histories of Brighton/Botswana collections, and of the provenance and meanings today of historic collections. 
URL https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/2021/02/22/making-african-connections/
 
Title New display Powell Cotton Museum - African collectors and Angola 
Description This new display profiles African collectors who worked to source the Angolan artefacts that are displayed in the Powell Cotton Museum. These were previously portrayed as collected by the Powell Cotton family with no recognition played by the role of African collectors, aides and intermediaries. The display is part of their permanent exhibition and was based on the research for Making African Connection. It includes images of Chief Tshiliwandele, one such collector of Owambo artefacts in the 1930s. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact This is an important aspect of decentring the Powell Cotton family, which is a longer term aspiration for the Museum, in furtherance of decolonizing objectives. It means that visiting publics gain a better understanding of the contexts of provenance and of colonial contexts. It is also combined with a more critical perspective, and can be part of a process challenging colonial myths, forefronting African perspectives, and redressing the ahistorical view of Africa presented in many ethnographic museums. 
 
Description 1) The project generated significant new interpretations of hitherto poorly understood colonial-era collections from the Sudan, Botswana and the Namibia/Angola borderlands through collaborative research methods that privileged the views and voices of descendant communities, feeding into on-going debates within the UK Museum sector over 'decolonizing'. A policy report including recommendations to the UK Museum sector was prepared collaboratively with partners. It is currently being typeset and will be released April 2021.
2) The digital resources created through the project have been curated into a sustainable digital archive, which provides a record of the research process, and will provide a resource for future researchers, museum professionals and publics interested in digital tools in decolonizing research. Digitized archival texts, oral history transcripts, film clips, photographs and summaries of research undertaken in the UK, Botswana, Namibia and the Sudan are visible alongside objects creating interconnections between items. This provides an accessible resource to African publics as well as global researchers, fore-fronting the voices and views of those who claim the collections as their heritage, and enabling historical re-contextualisation. The project has created 'display substitute' films that interpret each collection, and will themselves be used in the next stage of research, as well films of Zoom discussions of specific aspects of interpretation and debate over what 'decolonizing' the collections might mean. The film materials privilege the views and voices of our team members who are themselves members of descendant communities of each collection.
3) Preparatory research has been undertaken laying the basis for further physical displays in the extension period of the grant. A museum display at Khama III Memorial Museum in Botswana based on digital object images was launched in February 2021 will be part of the Museum's permanent legacy of this project and is designed to be mobile (to enable use in local schools), and will be a research tool in assessing public responses. Other launches are planned in UK museums based on materials already prepared when the Covid-19 restrictions allow, later in 2021, with further research activities around them.
4) Significant positive changes were made on the part of all UK museums including: a) removal of offensive language from public facing displays and catalogue entries, and new policy initiatives in response to 'decolonizing' demands; b) enhanced understanding among staff, volunteers and museum supporters of the collections and debates over 'decolonization' c) Powell Cotton Museum has created a permanent new display based on the research (that profiles an African collector, chief Tshiliwandele, alongside the Angolan objects he collected). Applications for further funding to continue the research and partnerships fostered have been made by two museums (to the Arts Council England, for research and contemporary collecting in Namibia partnering with Dr Napandulwe Shiweda, University of Namibia, by Powell Cotton Museum; and to ICOM for conservation work with Khama III in Botswana by Brighton Museum)
Exploitation Route Our partner museums, who were envisaged as our primary collaborators, have already begun to take forward the findings of this research. Specifically, the Powell Cotton Museum has made a bid for Arts Council funding to further funds to conduct their own field research to complement that undertaken by this project. The aims of this research will be to undertake some contemporary collecting to recast their current displays of their Angolan/Namibian materials, and to build links with African researchers and institutions who are interested parties in the historic objects in their collection. Brighton and Hove Black History Project have completed their section of the local history research, and have recommended the development of schools resources based thereon. The digital archive will remain accessible and provides a record of the research process as well as outcomes, that will provide a resource for other researchers interested in working ethically with colonial-era collections, and debating their potential futures.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://makingafricanconnections.org
 
Description 1. The findings and recommendations have been brought together into a policy report for the UK Museum sector (to be released April 2021). 2. The research has enabled changes in all UK partner museums, including to permanent displays and other forms of public engagement, catalogues/documentation and labelling, and new policy initiatives on 'decolonizing'. The changes include: a) increased understanding of, and removal of offensive language in public facing resources (labels, catalogue entries); b) requests for, and delivery of, training in anti-racism and 'decolonizing' from partner museum met by team members. The research led to Brighton Museum Keeper of Art, Helen Mears, being invited to participate in national policy fora over repatriation, restitution and decolonizing. At Powell Cotton Museum, a new display was created from the research findings on collecting, profiling African collectors who had enabled the acquisition of materials from Angola and Namibia, which was the first time African agency had been acknowledged; in addition, staff, volunteers and museum supporters used the research findings to develop new, critical insights into imperial history that marked a significant change from their previous attitudes, shifting them away from a romanticized, heroic understanding of the Powell Cotton family and colonial museum collecting. The Royal Engineers Museum are using the research findings to inform new initiatives to work with local black heritage organizations, and to train staff in debates over 'decolonizing' by use of the digital resources produced by the research, to be taken forward through the display scheduled for spring 2021. 3. Use of the findings by African partners: a) Winani Thebele of the Botswana National Museum has developed a catalogue based on the digital object images, to be published and distributed via the Botswana National Museum and Khama III Memorial Museum to spread awareness of the research findings and digital resources. b) Khama Memorial Museum curators have used the research findings to mount an exhibition, launched on 20 February 2020 based on the digitized object images, contemporary collecting and other aspects of the research. It is based on panel displays and is portable, designed for future use in local schools. The display interprets and recontextualises the objects in the history of the place from which they were originally acquired for the first time and the launch attracted significant nation media coverage. 3. Follow on bids. a) The findings of the research have been used by Powell Cotton Museum (one of our partner institutions) for a further bid to the Arts Council England (ACE) to undertake contemporary collection and further research in Namibia to inform a new display including video and interactive materials. This initiative stemmed from the emphasis placed in our findings of the importance of including Namibian voices, such that the creators of museum objects are speaking for themselves about their work displayed in the museum. These findings were communicated clearly by Dr Napandulwe Shiweda, of University of Namibia, during her research at Powell Cotton on the Angolan/Namibian collections. The ACE grant was awarded in January 2020. b) Brighton Museum applied successfully for follow on funds from ICOM to work with Khama III Memorial Museum on conservation work. 4. Local diversity organizations in Brighton have used these materials in the following ways: a) Brighton and Hove Black History have used the research to publicize local black heritage, through presentations on their research on Botswana chiefs' visit to Brighton in 1895; b) Diversity Community Empowerment Services Director, Tshepo Skwambane, who was consultant to this project has used the research findings in presentations on 'decolonizing' to the Museums Association. His renarrations of the objects and collection, feature in Brighton Museum's public dissemination of the research findings via blogs and film materials distributed to Museum supporters, and to broader publics over youtube.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Brighton Museum - new protocols on racist language
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
Impact Policies towards racist language are important in the museum sector, but the problem of offensive language is pervasive, particularly relating to colonial collections, catalogue entries and labelling. Brighton Museum & Art Gallery's development of new protocols informed by best practice in the UK archive sector is an important advance. It is documented in the projects policy briefing which is being circulated to the wider UK museum sector, with potential knock-on impacts. Addressing offensive language is important in making museum spaces 'safe' for BAME publics.
 
Description Powell-Cotton Museum redevelopment of gallery and learning activities.
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Training on decolonization, anti-racism and responding to Black Lives Matter for museum staff
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Training was provided by Nicola Stylianou to museum professionals at the Royal Engineers Museum on policy options for 'decolonization' in January 2020. This has resulted in changes to REM policy and practice, as decolonization initiatives are being integrated into policy and practice.
 
Description New Grant - UKRI C19 Extension Fund (Making African Connections from Sussex and Kent Museums: Decolonial Futures for Colonial Collections)
Amount £41,777 (GBP)
Organisation University of Sussex 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2021 
End 09/2021
 
Title Making African Connections Website 
Description The project website brings together digital images of the three collections, together with descriptions of the artefacts and related archival and audio-visual materials. It is designed as an interactive tool, which will capture further interpretations of the objects and will be updated on an on-going basis. It is intended as a means of bringing together information across the three collections in our study and therefore across three museums different cataloguing systems. It will be a means of making connections in subsequent periods of the research 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The objects in the museum collections have been rendered visible to global publics (anyone with a smart phone or access to the internet) for the first time. This is particularly significant as a means of reaching potential African diaspora user groups around the world, as well as African publics within the continent. 
 
Description "The Future of African Collections" panel at Museum's Association conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Tshepo Skwambane and Helen Mears participated in a panel discussion on  'Rethinking Relations and Building Trust around African Collections' chaired by Nick Merriman, Director of the Horniman Museum & Gardens, Museums Association conference, Brighton.
One of the outcomes of this was increased enthusiasm for the project from senior management at one of the other partner institutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Annual Symposium of the Society for the Study of the Sudans UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Annual Symposium of the Society for the Study of the Sudans UK (SSSUK), SOAS, London, 7 September 2019: Fergus Nicoll and Osman Nusairi meetings with academics, representatives of museums and members of the Sudanese diaspora.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Arts Council England - working group on the Restitution & Repatriation of Cultural Property 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Helen Mears is participating in the Arts Council England working group on the Restitution & Repatriation of Cultural Property tasked with revising / updating national museum sector guidance (to replace that issued by the Museums Galleries Commission in 2000). Attended initial meeting on 5 July 2019 and reviewed draft brief for consultant. Presence on this panel means the project can have influence on national guidelines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Bitesize talk at Brighton Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Rachel Heminway Hirst and Kathlewwn Lawther profiled the MAC project & Botswana collection (approx.20 objects) during a Bite-size talk. Bite size talks take place in the Museum Lab space and provide visitors with brief introductions to topics. This presentation was enriched by material gathered during the August research trip which Rachel Heminway-Hirst participated in.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Botswana TV news - Then we were Bechuana 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact 'When we were Bechuana' an exhibiton at Khama Memorial Museum showcasing research from the project was featured on Botswana TV news.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Brighton University MA students 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact MA Museum studies visit from Unversity of Brighton were given an introduction to practical museum procedures such as Documentation and Object Entry. Students were introduced to the MAC project and viewed objects with their associated documentation. The session focussed on the challenegs and opportunties of carrying out retrospective documentation that have emerged as a result of participating in the MAC project. Helen Mears, Kathleen Lawther and Rachel Heminway-Hirst ran the session together.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Conference Paper - ECAS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Nicola Stylianou delivered a paper at the European Conference of African Studies, the largest conference for African area studies in Europe. The paper was 'Making African connections around collections in Sussex and Kent Museums' and was given on a panel addressing museum collections and their histories. As a result of this paper Nicola met with prominent academics from Southern Africa and an early career researcher from Portugal working on a similar topic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Conference paper - Museum Ethnographers Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Nicola Stylianou delivered a paper in the 'provocations' section of the Museum Ethnographers Group annual conference. The theme of the conference was 'Trust, harm and ethnographic display.' and the paper was entitled 'Making and Sustaining African connections.' This was an important opportunity to engage with museum professionals and talk about the issues the project is addressing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.museumethnographersgroup.org.uk/en/conference/428-conference-2019-trust-harm-and-ethnogra...
 
Description Derby Museum and MEG event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Helen Mears, Rachel Heminway-Hirst and Nicola Stylianou were all involved in organising an event through the Museum Ethnographers group which was hosted by Derby Museum. The workshop focused on gallery redisplay in the context of debates around decolonisation and included a 'Repatriation and Restitution Consultation' session hosted by Helen Mears.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.museumethnographersgroup.org.uk/en/events.html
 
Description Discussion Panel on Decolonisation at Africa Centre, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Nicola Stylianou participated in a panel discussion on decolonisation at 'Changing the Narrative' a two day event sponsored by Informer East Africa and organised by the Muesum of British Colonialism at Africa Centre, London. While at the event Nicola was approached by a number of individuals for more information. As a direct result of this event she spoke to Alan Kunna who has agreed to contribute to the project and has invited Nicola to do a workshop with the students at Newham Sixth Form College.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.museumofbritishcolonialism.org/museum-events/2020/1/11/informer-east-africa-and-mbc-pres...
 
Description Empowering Collections - Museum's Association Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Kelly Foster, a Wikipedian-in-residence for the Making African Connections project, discussed digital repatriation as a strand of decolonial practice.
Kathleen Lawther, who has been working as a collections assistant on the project, discussed the importance of documentation as a tool for access.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Free day at Brighton Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On the 14th of September Brighton held one of its periodice 'Free days'. Visitors are given free enty to the museum and additional activities are laid on. The Making African connections project was profiled in the Museum Lab space, Tshepo Skwambane hosted and visitors were able to view 24 items from the Botswana collections that are not usually on display The information given was particularly rich as a direct result of the MAC research trip undertaken in August. Visitors responded well to this information and were pleased to be benefitting from new research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Helen Mears is a Member of the Museums Association¬†Decolonising Museums¬†working group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Member of the Museums Association Decolonising Museums working group tasked with providing new guidance to the sector. Attended initial meeting March 2019.As a direct result of the initial meeting the project was profiled in the Museum Associations 'Empowering Collections' report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Helen Mears participated in roundtable on restitution hosted by the Arts Council England, the British Council and ICOM-UK. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Helen Mears participate in a roundtable on restitution hosted by the Arts Council England, the British Council and ICOM-UK on the 11th of March.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Heritage Lottery Fund visit to Brighton Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Helen Mears, Tshepo Skwambane and Kathleen Lawther hosted a visit from the Heritage Lottery Fund -disucssed MAC and showed them a selection of objects from Botswana collection. The attendees were particularly interested to hear the new information gained on the August research trip to Botswana that members of the MAC team undertook.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Interview for Radio - Then We Were Bechuana 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Radion Botswana and Gabs FM, two prominent radio stations in Botswana, attended the opening of the exhibition and interviewed Scobie Lekhuthile, the curator.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Making Botswana - series of blogs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Project partners Royal Pavilion Museums and Galleries, Brighton produeced a series of 6 blogs plus a Project/Blogs Intro. They include written information, film clips, images and interviews and are a multimedia virtual display that substitutes for a physical display that could not take place due to COVID restrictions. They are based on project research and explore the relationship between craft/objects researched as part of the project and their relevance to the shaping of the Botswana nation. These were produced collaboratively and link to longer 'Meeting Makers' film.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/category/projects/making-african-connections-2021/
 
Description Meeting, History Department, University of Botswana 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 10 members of the University of Botswana History Department attended a meeting to hear about the research conducted and planned, sparking discussion over further involvement of the history department in the form of a formal one day workshop to coincide with the return of the C19th artefacts from Brighton to Khama III Memorial Museum. The historians reported a change of attitude towards museum artefacts, which they had seen as ahistorical and associated with ethnographic, archaeological and natural history expertise. After the meeting they described an increased interest in ninetheenth century museum collections as potential historical source.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Museum Hour: Kathleen Lawther 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On the 24th of August Kathleen Lawther (Brighton Museum team) hosted aMuseum Hour Twitter conversation on the topic of decolonising museum documentation. Museum Hour is a very popular thread on twitter in which guest curators pose questions which other museum professionals respond to. It is widely followed by UK based museum professionals but also attracts an international audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Museums Association's Decolonising Museums working group Workshop - audiences and participants 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Tshepo discussed his involvement in the MAC project as part of a workshop session focused on 'Audiences + Participants' for the Museums Association's Decolonising Museums working group.This allowed the projects experience of decolonising practice with sector organisations to inform the guidance the MA is working on to support museums to understand decolonising practice and provide practical advice to museums that want to take action to decolonise their practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Participation in BIEA panel on collaborative heritage projects as part of an event called 'Innovative Research in Africa' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was an online event organised by the British Institute in Eastern Africa to celebrate their 60th anniversary. The theme of the day was 'Innovative research in Africa' and the panel, organised and chaired by Zoe Cormack, focussed on 'New work on museum collections between UK-Eastern Africa.' A presentation was given by Nicola Stylianou about the projects work with the Sudanese collections at the Royal Engineers Museum. She showed the video of the Sudan team talking as they were unable to attend on the day. The audience included several heritage practitioners from East Africa as well as supporters of the BIEA and academics. Following the presentation their was discussion about changes to museum policy suggesting their will be interest in the 'policy document' and an opportunity to talk to a senior academic about funding issues - this is being followed up. Also of note were questions from Sudanese audience members about how we planned to work with Sudanese institutions in the future, particularly the Khalifas House museum. One questioner noted that the absence of material culture from the Mahdist period within Sudan is a barrier to research. This is something we had already been discussing but is an added impetus to taking forward this plan, firstly in an event co-hosted with Zoe Cormack and planned for next year and possibly into a follow on project if funding can be found.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation at Al-Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman (11 March @1530) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Fergus Nicoll (consultant on the MAC project) gave a 40 minute PowerPoint presentation describing the origins of the MAC project, the development of the bilingual website and the plans for new"decolonized"exhibition at the REM. The talk went on to discuss the large volume of Mahdiyya artefacts extant outside Sudan, using illustrations of flags, jibbas, Korans, etc., and illustrating with a UK map the 45+ institutions currently holding (if not displaying) relevant Sudanese material from the period.
All three audiences were surprised bythe number of UK museumswith Mahdiyya materials, as well as the extent of their holdings, and impressed by the significance of some specific items-especially the finials and drapesfrom the Mahdi's tomb, the Khalifa Abdullahi's personal Koran, the numerous well-preserved banners, and the remarkable 1898 photographs in the Royal Collection.There were unexpectedlyfew calls for the repatriationof artefacts -butconsiderable enthusiasm for some kind of collective online exhibition.Attendance was constrained by a widespread petrol shortage that took private cars and taxis off the road, so the event was broadcast on Facebook Live.
Influential attendees: Dr Iglal Elmalik, Director of NCAM'sConservation Project; Rabah al-Sadiq, daughter of Imam al-Sadiqal-Mahdi (see below); Professor Gasim Bedri, President of al-Ahfad University for Women
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation by Fergus Nicoll at Abd-al-Karim Mirghani Cultural Centre(AKMCC), Omdurman (12 March @ 1930) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Fergus Nicolla (consultant) gave a 40-minute PowerPoint presentations, describing the origins of the MAC project, the development of the bilingual website and the plans for new"decolonized"exhibition at the REM. The talk went on to discuss the large volume of Mahdiyya artefacts extant outside Sudan, using illustrations of flags, jibbas, Korans, etc., and illustrating with a UK map the 45+ institutions currently holding (if not displaying) relevant Sudanese material from the period.
All three audiences were surprised bythe number of UK museums with Mahdiyya materials, as well as the extent of their holdings, and impressed by the significance of some specific items-especially the finials and drapesfrom the Mahdi's tomb, the Khalifa Abdullahi's personal Koran, the numerous well-preserved banners, and the remarkable 1898 photographs in the Royal Collection.There were unexpectedly few calls for the repatriation of artefacts -but considerable enthusiasm for some kind of collective online exhibition. Attendance was constrained by a widespread petrol shortage that took private cars and taxis off the road, but the event was broadcast live on the private TV channelSudaniyya 24.
Influential attendees: Sara Nugdallah, Deputy leader of the Umma Party;Kamal Abd-al-Karim Mirghani, Director of theAKMCC; Sadiq Awad Bashir, biographer of Ali al-Mahdi
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation by Fergus Nicoll at Al-Imam al-Hadi College(IHC), Omdurman (12 March @1130) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Fergus Nicoll (consultant on the MAC project) gave a 40 minute PowerPoint presentation describing the origins of the MAC project, the development of the bilingual website and the plans for new"decolonized"exhibition at the REM. The talk went on to discuss the large volume of Mahdiyya artefacts extant outside Sudan, using illustrations of flags, jibbas, Korans, etc., and illustrating with a UK map the 45+ institutions currently holding (if not displaying) relevant Sudanese material from the period.
All three audiences were surprised bythe number of UK museumswith Mahdiyya materials, as well as the extent of their holdings, and impressed by the significance of some specific items-especially the finials and drapesfrom the Mahdi's tomb, the Khalifa Abdullahi's personal Koran, the numerous well-preserved banners, and the remarkable 1898 photographs in the Royal Collection.There were unexpectedlyfew calls for the repatriationof artefacts -butconsiderable enthusiasm for some kind of collective online exhibition. Attendance was constrained by a widespread petrol shortage that took private cars and taxis off the road, so the event was broadcast on Facebook Live where it attracted over a thousand viewers. This institution seemed the most promising for potential future collaboration.
Fergus Nicoll was ableo to meet with a number of people who could be interested in assisting with the project or developing future projects: Prof. Yusuf Hassan Muhammad Yas, Director of the IHC's Imam Abd-al-Rahman Centre;Nasreldin al-Hadi al-Mahdi, prominent member of the al-Mahdi family; Dr Faisal Musa, Emeritus Professor of History at Nilein University; Sadig Babo Nimirof the Umma Party Political Bureau; Omar al-Nur Ahmad, Director of the Military Museum in Bahri; Dina Heikalof theEgyptian Embassy in Khartoum
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation to Durham University History Department Seminar, 'Making African Connections from Sussex and Kent Museums: Decolonial Futures for Colonial Collections' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to academic colleagues in Durham University History Department, with question and answer and animated discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project profile for Museum Ethnographers Group website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The project was profiled on the Museum Ethnographers Group website. Nicola Stylianou wrote the profile.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://museumethnographersgroup.blogspot.com/2019/03/making-african-connections-decolonial.html
 
Description Project profiled in the Museum Associations Collections 2030 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The Making African Connections project was a casestudy in the Museum Association's 'Empowering collections' publication, which is part of its Collections 2030 project. Collections 2030 is a major research project looking at the long-term purpose, use and management of museum collections. It addresses two main themes: the culture of collections - how collections can be used and what we think they are for - and infrastructure - what we need in place to make our collections effective. This is a high profile and presitgious project so to be selected as a case study brought us to the attention of a much wider audience and resulted in a query from another museum in Kent about advice on decolonising their collections.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1262818
 
Description RPM Decolonising Museums working group - online event: Wednesday 23 September 2020, 2-3.30pm 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This online zoom webinar was chaired by Jenny Williams (founder of Take the Space and coordinator of the RPM Heritage Network), considered what the movement towards Decolonising Museums and the #BlackLivesMatter campaign means for Royal Pavilion and Museums's buildings, collections, workforce and activities.
Speakers included Kelly Foster (MAC), Layemi Ikomi (White Pube), who will reflect on the response of the UK arts/heritage sector to this movement to date; plus Helen Graham (Volunteer & Workforce Development Manager), Helen Grundy (Senior Keeper, Creative Programming) and Helen Mears (Keeper World Art, RPMG) offering our initial thoughts on how decolonising effects their respective areas of work.
Although the event was intended for staff at RPMG it was opened to a wider audience as a result of interest from others in the museum sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Research Seminar for Sussex Africa Centre and Sussex Art history. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Nicola Stylianou delivered a research seminar entitled "Making African Connections: Angolan Artefacts in the Powell-Cotton Museum." This was the first time the Sussex Africa Centre and the Art History department jointly delivered a research seminar. It was well attended by students and staff from both departments and there was a lively discussion following the presentation. One PhD student approached the speaker to ask for advice about undertaking fieldwork around museum collections and a colleague from Art History approached the project to find out more about creating an online archive. JoAnn McGregor and NIcola Stylianou were also approached and asked if they would be interested in joining a (yet to be set up) heritage network working across disciplines and departments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Seminar, Sussex Africa Centre, University of Sussex 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Seminar on 'Decolonizing Museums in Southern Africa' with presentations by three visiting project partners from Southern Africa: Winani Thebele, Chief Ethnologist, Botswana National Museums (February 2019); Dr Napandulwe Shiweda, Senior Lecturer, University of Namibia; Mr Scobie Kekhutile, Curator Khama III Memorial Museum, Botswana. The seminar was chaired by Prof JoAnn McGregor and attended by staff, postgraduates and undergraduates from University of Sussex; staff and postdoctoral researchers from University of Brighton; members of third sector organizations involved in diversity and debates over decolonizing in Brighton and Lewes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Session for Brighton University 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Rachel Heminway- Hirst organiesed a session for Universtiy of Brighton Students on the 'Embodied Visual Narratives' module. Discussed MAC and showed them obejcts from the Willoughby collection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Suchi Chatterjee presentation as part of BHBH celebration 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Suchi Chatterjee profiled the work she and Bert Williams have done for the MAC project, researching the local history angle to Brighton Museum's collection of objects from Botswana. The talk was part of an event to celebrate 18 years of Brighton and Hove Black History, a project partner. The event was online and was attended by about 70 people. The talk was well received and revealed a strong interest in the local angle which has contributed to a decision to pursue the possibility of a resource for schools on the topic of the 'Three Kings Visit to Brighton'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Then We Were Bechuana - Exhibition at Khama Memorial Museum, Serowe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 20 people attended the opening event (numbers were highly restricted due to Covid) and since then there have been several groups of visitors including local people, delegations from embassies and the media. The exhibition is leading to discussions in both the local area and nationally about the museum objects and the history associated with them. On the day there were discussions about how much history and terminology had been lost, several visitors reported never having seen anything like the objects in the picture. A representative of the Kgotla (local authority) also attended and said although it was the first time he'd seen such things it wasn't the last and discussed the importance of understanding and showing respect for culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL http://makingafricanconnections.org/s/archive/item/3599
 
Description Workshop Participatoin - 'Art Markets & Museums: Restitution and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage'. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Helen Mears participated at a workshop at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description panel presentation by JoAnn McGregor - Exploring the Digital Shift 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation on research findings to Wiley-sponsored panel on the opportunities and challenges of digitizing archives. Audience was academics at the Royal Anthropological Institute/Royal Geographical Society joint conference 18 September 2020. The presentation was recorded and is viewable online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020