Peeling Back the Hidden, Colonial Layers of Museum Objects

Procter does something important in showing us the things many museums hide, the parts of the objects’ histories that aren’t warm and fuzzy (or flattering for the institutions that now hold them), pointing overtly to the fact that museums aren’t neutral.

“If you can’t see the views and agendas coming through” in art and museums, Procter warns, “that doesn’t mean they aren’t there: it might just mean that they are close enough to your own for you to take them for granted.”

First published in the UK in March, Procter’s text, with its focus on the colonial history of art, is even more timely now, given the renewed Black Lives Matter protests. One section of the text is dedicated to statues and monuments commemorating racist and/or colonialist figures. Among those she highlights are statues of English slave trader Edward Colston, since thrown in and recovered from Bristol Harbor, and British imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oxford, a focus of Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford.

Procter is certainly right to point out that these statues have powerful symbolic value. But she is also right to emphasize that the statues are being targeted because, as symbols, they are ultimately just a symptom of the underlying inequality of our institutions.
GOOD READ: Peeling Back the Hidden, Colonial Layers of Museum Objects


Indian Slavery

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absolute power depends on absolute control over knowledge, which in turn necessitates absolute corruption

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“Politicians, Priests, and psychiatrists often face the same problem: how to find the most rapid and permanent means of changing a man’s belief…The problem of the doctor and his nervously ill patient, and that of the religious leader who sets out to gain and hold new converts, has now become the problem of whole groups of nations, who wish not only to confirm certain political beliefs within their boundaries, but to proselytize the outside world.” – William Sargant “Battle of the Mind”

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