The V&A is committed to anti-racism. It is vital that everyone – particularly people who have been excluded in the past – knows that the museum and its collections belong to us all. The principles of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) are critical to creating the V&A we all 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.
The V&A should be a progressive and fair place to work, and we strive to make those who visit or work with us welcome. To achieve this, we review continuously our existing structures and practices to address any potential areas of concern, and to ensure that we are being effective in defining and making changes.
The V&A reviews its progress and ambitions across several areas of activity:
Audiences and programmes
We will embed global narratives in our audience development strategy through new galleries, exhibitions, wider public programmes (talks, events, festivals), learning programmes, collections, research and acquisitions
We will 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.
We will create a curatorial structure that proactively promotes equity, diversity and a commitment to an inclusive museum. We will expand our acquisitions remit to correct past mistakes, and work to play an active role in discussions around restitution.
We will 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.
We will create dedicated training courses to address unconscious bias and cultivate anti-racist behaviour in our staff. We have mechanisms for reporting behaviours that do not reflect our values.
Further updates on our work are available on our blog and social media channels, and you can read our Equality and Diversity statement here.
Anti-Racism Task Force
The ARTF is one of several staff-led internal advisory groups at the V&A. The ARTF has an important role in encouraging and reviewing the work of the wider V&A and its members have helped to define what the museum should review and focus on as part of its ongoing anti-racism work.
The ARTF works to ensure that underrepresented staff can create and control safe spaces for discussion and exploration to effect real institutional impact. It recognises particularly that museum staff who embody marginalised identities and/or service-based roles should be part of the creative and leadership process, in order to ensure that staff and museum priorities are not influenced by homogenous perspectives.
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.
As of July 2022 we have:
- Rolled out training across the museum: ‘Creating an Inclusive Environment at work’ (for everyone who works at the V&A); ‘Unconscious bias at work’ (for new starters); ‘Inclusive Leadership’ (for our Trustees, Executive Board and Leadership Forum); ‘Privilege webinars’ (for members of Leadership Forum)
- Prepared for launch of second series of Each One Teach One talks. These talks will be live-streamed to staff and the public, and made available online.
- Launched an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) forum that will focus on the Workforce and Culture recommendations the Task Force previously outlined (below).
As of November 2021 we had:
- Appointed an EDI Lead within the People Team
- Begun work to achieve our measurable goals
- Updated this section of the website
As at May 2021, we had:
- 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.