Tag Archives: Documentary curators

Contemporary Collecting: An Ethical Toolkit for Museum Practitioners

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

Keeping records of the times we are living through is part of the work of many museums. Collecting the here and now brings up all sorts of questions. It is a complicated process working out what stories, objects and experiences can or should be added to museum collections. There are lots of ways to decide and lots of decisions that need to be made.

Over the last year, we’ve been finding advice for how to approach this work from a group of museum workers. We began discussing some of the challenges during a workshop for the Contemporary Collecting Group at London Transport Museum in spring 2019. Then we carried out an online survey for further discussion. In summer the contemporary collecting toolkit was published by Museums Development North West, and we began producing a document which could sit alongside the 2019 toolkit and shed light on some of the complex ethical issues that come up.

We found five important themes:

  1. Balance, both sides and hate
  2. Decolonisation
  3. Climate emergency
  4. Trauma and distress
  5. Digital preservation

We knew we needed a strong set of contributors to share their experience and started contacting people we’d like to hear from on the range of subjects the workshop and consultation had identified. Working together, we’ve produced a toolkit for ethical contemporary collecting which is ready and live now. It has contributions and case studies from some fantastic and fascinating projects – including museums collecting Snapchat content and Extinction Rebellion protests, as well as museum workers collecting around subjects like homelessness and responses to terrorist attacks.

You can find downloadable versions of the toolkit on our website.

The idea is that this version of the toolkit will continue the conversation. We’d like museum workers, researchers, collaborators and students to use this toolkit and also let us know what they’d like to see in a future edition. Do you think you will find it useful? What advice, topic or case studies stand out to you? What would you like to have further information on? Who else do you want to hear from? What other topics, within the overarching subject of the ethics of contemporary collecting, would you like to address in the future?

We are keen to encourage the use of the toolkit to prompt discussion, collaboration and support across the sector, and hope that, as practice and dialogue on the topics included evolve, that the toolkit can evolve, too.

If you would like to arrange a meet-up or connect to a reading group meet-up, then please send an invitation or email to the Contemporary Collecting Group mailing list.

#MyJourneyToPride – Here’s what happened!

By Ellie Miles, Documentary Curator

Back in July we partnered up with museum freelancer Sacha Coward and invited people to use the #MyJourneyToPride hashtag to document and share their stories of travelling to Pride in London and UK Black Pride on social media. We also asked some people to record video diaries of their journeys in order to create a picture of the lived experience of a group of people from the LGBT+ community in London in 2019.

This film is a glimpse into the experiences our diarists had over the weekend. How did they feel about their journeys? Did they feel safe travelling to the events? Did they ‘de-rainbow’ for the journey home?

When we asked people to record their stories we sought a full picture, not just the positive, and were thankful to be entrusted with accounts than included good and bad. Alongside the moments of celebration and connection there are incidents of abuse and examples of people feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. One of the clips towards the end of the film shows how walking home alone in the dark can feel unsafe. It’s all part of the story that we wanted to record.

We didn’t know whether trying to collect these stories via a hashtag would work, but we were pleased to see that over the weekend the hashtag was pretty active, being shared around 500 times. We’re now in the process of approaching people to ask permission for rights to preserve their content within the Museum’s collection.

These stories will enrich our collection and give these experiences a place in the history of transport in London. They will sit alongside physical objects that we collected in recent years which you can learn about on our website, including posters, badges, oyster wallets and the first rainbow crossing. We hope to preserve the poster series that TfL installed at Green Park station as well. We will continue to work to build our LGBT+ collections in the future, and hope to do more to learn about the history of LGBT+ communities and their transport experiences.

We want to thank everyone who supported this collecting project. We are very grateful to be entrusted with caring for these stories, objects and experiences. We are currently working on ways to display and interpret this material in the Museum itself, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

If you shared material but have not heard from us yet or if you have material from Pride weekend which you haven’t shared yet but would like to tell us about, please get in touch by emailing documentarycurator@ltmuseum.co.uk.