Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Diversifying the Collections: Inclusive Citizenship and Public Histories of Exclusion

In educational settings such as museums, universities and schools, white, male, able-bodied and rational subjects still dominate. Although there has been a lot of theoretical work on processes of in- and exclusion through racialization, sexualization, and disabilization, we still know very little about the actual representations and absences of minority group in such contexts. The recent discussion about the use of words like ‘neger’ in the Rijksmuseum is telling in this respect. Why do we still have such difficulties in creating inclusiveness and how can we deal with these processes in a historically responsible way? In our project we will investigate how and why minority groups including women, members of LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities and various ethnicized groups were and are represented (or precisely not) in two museums.

2016 - 2017

In line with our expertise in disability and postcolonial/race studies we have selected the ‘Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde’ and ‘Museum van de Geest Dolhuys’. With this project we do not only seek to provide an in-depth historical analysis of these institutional representations, but also to formulate recommendations and present best practices for making museums and digital humanities more inclusive. The innovative nature of the project lies in its intersectional approach: we will select and analyze representations in which concepts of identity intersect, in particular disability and race. At the micro-level we will focus on the way objects are described and categorized, at the macro level we will be looking into how these categorizations are accomodated in the wider conceptual and visual framework of the exhibitions. By interrogating the two museums’ collections in this manner, we will develop during our oneyear project a set of entries based on the digital collections of the two museums, which will be presented on a new, accessible website that enables us to link the research results of our project to the websites of museums.

The website will be built in such a way that new research findings can be submitted onto the online platform. This will enable new organizations to join the initiative, in accordance with our intention to enhance the project after one year with new research and international collaboration. The trainees are the main executors of the project by selecting and analyzing the sources, co-developing the website and contributing to research proposals and a paper.

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