Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther

via The Hopkins Exhibitionist, 22 Feb 2018: Not directly related to Southeast Asia, and contains spoilers to the movie Blank Panther; but the scene in discussion takes place in a museum and is quite relevant in the Southeast Asian context where many exhibits were simple taken from their host countries and put on display:

It is worth considering the aspects of the scene that are realities in the modern museum. African artifacts such as those shown in the film’s museum are likely taken from a home country under suspicious circumstances, such as notable artifacts in real-life Britain like the Benin bronzes which now reside at the British Museum. It is often the case that individuals will know their own culture as well as or better than a curator, but are not considered valuable contributors because they lack a degree. People of color are less represented in museum spaces, and often experience undue discrimination while entering gallery spaces. Finally, museums are experiencing an influx of white women filling staff roles, leading to homogenized viewpoints, and lack senior staff with diverse backgrounds. With these truths represented in such a short but poignant scene, the tension between audiences and institutions is played out to the extreme.

It is uncomfortable for many institutions to even broach the subject of the museum’s complicated relationship with audiences of color, but Black Panther has created an impeccable opportunity for institutions to begin a dialogue with their community. So many people will see this film; the scene may only reinforce their conception of museums, or it may open their eyes to the realities of the complicated relationship between the universal museum and colonialism, and museums need to be prepared to actively engage with this topic rather than avoiding the uncomfortable truths that are now out in the open on cinema screens.

Source: Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

One thought on “Why museum professionals need to talk about Black Panther”

  1. This is a very valuable commentary and a fact that is the norm through the world. To often a curators knowledge comes from Euro-centric texts that espouse many colonial attitudes that have dominated the academic world without the local expertise that needs to be taken into account. That scene does an excellent job of highlighting this shortcoming.

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