Anti-Racism

The V&A is committed to anti-racism. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are critical to creating the V&A we want to see – a museum that reflects the cultural and demographic complexity of those we serve through our collections, programmes, our audiences and – at every level – our staff and partnerships.

It is vital that our Museum is a progressive and fair place to work, and that we strive to make those who visit or work with us feel welcome and fairly treated. To achieve this, we need to interrogate existing structures and practices to identify areas of concern and ensure that we are being effective in defining and making changes.

Anti-Racism Task Force

The V&A’s Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) is one part of the Museum's broader work on EDI. Its work has highlighted the need for underrepresented or excluded staff to create and control safe spaces for discussion and exploration and provide mechanisms for learnings and outcomes from these groups to effect real institutional impact. We want to ensure that Museum staff who embody marginalised identities and/or service based roles are part of the creative and leadership process, to ensure that staff and Museum priorities are not influenced by homogenous perspectives.

Core principles

The ARTF defined three core principles that underpin this important work across the Museum:

Racism is wrong. Racism is unproductive, illogical and is not conducive to healthy societies or beneficial to thriving cultural production.

We believe that it is not enough to not be racist. We believe that it is not enough to react to problematic behaviours as they arise. We believe that we need to be actively anti-racist, to robustly put in place the structures, procedures and measures to proactively counter racism, to shift organisational culture to ensure that all colleagues, visitors, partners feel equally protected and supported by the V&A. We believe that we are united with colleagues in our commitment to not just counter racism, prejudice and intolerance in all forms, but to see our Museum grow to truly reflect the demographic and cultural complexity of the audiences we serve.

We are proud to do this work

We are proud of our nation's diversity and recognise the colonial histories connected to V&A collections, British cultural history and our long history of global engagement. We are committed to highlighting its implications today, and to broadening and deepening our understanding of the legacy of empire and slavery in the context of the Museum's ongoing commitment to addressing colonial heritage. Cultural diversity makes the V&A stronger, enriches our nation, and is integral to who we are as an institution and as individuals.

We are committed to making change happen

We acknowledge that there is real work to be done, but we are determined to work together to create the necessary institutional shifts and safeguards, and to collaborate on solutions to achieve the changes that we would all like to see. We will work to shift areas of acculturated inertia, address institutional bias and weakness, to drive change.

Progress

Progress

As at May 2021, we have:

  • Reviewed current and historic anti-racism activity across the Museum, specifically the HLF 3-year project Capacity Building and Cultural Ownership (2005 – 2008), to understand why long-term change had not yet taken place, and what was needed to address this, alongside a small number of relevant reports in the wider sector.
  • Identified areas for change in different sectors of the Museum: People, Culture, Workforce; Public Programme (exhibitions, displays, festivals); Collection, Learning, Research, Interpretation.
  • Met with internal stakeholders from across the Museum's departments to discuss current anti-racism work, gaps and opportunities for development, and propositions for change as part of the process of drafting recommendations.
  • Looked frankly at the V&A's imperial history, collections with a colonial heritage, institutional culture, and experiences of racism.
  • Launched a talks series for staff, Each One Teach One, to explore broader perspectives on anti-racism, and inform the development and implementation of the Task Force's recommendations. A selection of talks will be made available.
  • Drafted a strategic objective relating to anti-racism as part of the Museum's new five-year strategic plan, to inform a wider EDI strategic objective.
  • Formed a series of recommendations for change – shared for feedback with colleagues across the Museum – in particular focusing on diversifying collections and highlighting colonial heritage, addressing problematic terminology in collections records, and creating a far-reaching workforce development programme. In its next phase the task force will focus on developing metrics and accountabilities, putting the recommendations into action.

Recommendations

The recommendations sit broadly within the following objectives:

Audiences and programmes
Embed global narratives in the audience development strategy through FuturePlan activity, exhibitions, wider public programmes (talks, events, festivals), learning programmes, collections, research and acquisitions

Workforce
Strengthen the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Workforce development strategy, prioritising the appointment of an EDI Lead within the People and Culture team, with a Museum-wide remit to ensure the recommendations are realised by colleagues across the organisation.

Collections
Ensure a curatorial structure that proactively promotes equity, diversity, and a commitment to an inclusive Museum.

Accountability
Undertake an annual diversity audit as a benchmark indicator of progress accountable to Executive Board and Board of Trustees, with related metrics across the recommendations.

Culture
Create a dedicated mechanism to address unconscious bias and any racist behaviours.

By November 2021 we will:

  • shape and put in place the mechanisms and metrics for Anti-Racism Task Force recommendations.
  • update this section of website with our progress.
  • appoint and EDI Lead within the People and Culture team.

Further updates on our work are available on our blog and social media channels.

Background image: Bagga, vocalist with Matumbi, Hackney, London, photograph by Syd Shelton, 1978