The latest redisplay of the cases outside the ceramic studio is a comment on the difficulty that museums can have in trying to represent the changing world in which they operate.
Museum collections are built up over time and are often a product of the society in which they were collected. What and who is considered important and what is socially acceptable alters as society changes. This can lead to historical gaps in the collections. What has been collected can influence whose histories can be told, and without representative objects, some communities may become silenced – often inadvertently – within museums.
The phrase ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’ has moved into everyday language as an ugly example of historic discrimination. It derives from discriminatory signs placed in the windows of some pubs and bed & breakfasts in England in the 1960s.
As demographic and social change happens, the objects needed by museums if they wish to reflect society also alter. It will be interesting to see in the future what today’s collecting decisions reveal about how we currently see the world.