Trading in Cultural Difference: Diversity and Self-representation at the Liverpool Regional Museum

Curtin University of Technology and Australian Museums and Galleries OnLine (AMOL)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Open Museum Journal, 2005, 7, pp. 1 - 29
Issue Date:
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In this paper I discuss the strategies developed by the Liverpool Regional Museum in conjunction with the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, to engage with the diverse communities of their region. The case studies analysed offer specific, localised inflections of issues that arose from trading in cultural difference. I suggest that some of the strategies developed by the Museum to assist in the trade of cultural difference include: - Prioritising diversity in the Business Plan and Museum policies; - Establishing community cultural development (ccd) processes for exhibitions; - Exhibiting Aboriginal and established non-Aboriginal histories in the region as well as showcasing emerging communities on a community-by-community basis; - Encouraging cross-cultural links; and - Initiating and developing intercultural projects where the dominant histories presented embrace a variety of groups including those historically marginalized because of issues such as gender, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability or class. Driving the development of these curatorial strategies was the need to both represent diversity and facilitate self-representation. Self-representation by communities did not automatically mean diversity was engaged with, given the various asymmetrical power relations at play. The interaction between the Museum and the communities in negotiating this dual discursive, resulted in what I term the co-representation of exhibitions. Co-representation acknowledges that complex interactions between museums and communities take place which affect the development and outcome of exhibitions.
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