Every voice matters - collecting black stories

Nasir Adams
A few months into his new role, Nasir Adam explains what he's doing to bring the museum together with black communities across Wales.

Can you describe what you do?

My role is to be a link between the Museum of Wales and black communities across the country. I am working on increasing the number of black history-related objects and oral histories in the collection. I’m also revisiting the museum’s existing collection, and exploring opportunities to reinterpret objects through a decolonising lens.

Why do you think the role is important?

I believe it’s so important that we recognise the contribution and presence of diverse communities here in Wales. We need to address the historical amnesia that exists, and remind all communities, especially our young generations and future generations, that the black community has contributed to the heritage, culture, and economy of the Welsh nation .

Schoolchildren
An image of schoolchildren from the Museum of Wales archive.

 

We need to inspire and instil a sense of pride and community among young black people, and to help confront the problem of racial discrimination through greater understanding.

We can do this by making our black past accessible and meaningful to broader communities.

Do I think other institutions should have similar roles? Absolutely 100%. I also feel that it should be the responsibility of every curator to embrace diversity in their collection. That’s when we will see true representation.

How are you hoping to increase black history stories in the collection?

By collecting and recording oral histories from black communities across Wales, to make sure that everyone has their voice heard. I’m relying on my community intelligence, rather than going to community gatekeepers or the usual suspects.

Every voice matters.

This is why it’s so important to collaborate and develop true partnerships with grassroots communities and organisations.

How do you think the role of curator is or should be changing?

Children playing
An image from Museum of Wales' archives.

 

The role of a curator is definitely changing. In the past, as shown by Dr Bernadette Lynch’s report for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Whose Cake is it Anyway? communities were passive beneficiaries, rather active partners in the way museums collect objects and stories.

When we involve and work with diverse communities to interpret the collection through a decolonising lens, that’s when we will see the role of curators and institution truly changing.

Twenty years after Stuart Hall's article Unsettling the Heritage, this resonates with me:  "those who cannot see themselves reflected in the idea of the nation cannot properly ‘belong’”.

Do you think we still need Black History Month?

I truly feel that black history should be celebrated throughout the year, rather than having one month dedicated to black history, and then have 11 months of tense silences. Racism is real and never stops, so rather than having one month celebrating and creating awareness of black history, this should be done every day, every month, and every year.

Can you tell us about a particular object at the museum that really speaks to you?

I have only been in post for as few months, but I absolutely love every single story and object that I have collected.

What’s meaningful to me is seeing communities feel empowered and engaged, and for them to see their shared culture/identity represented at the museum. That’s one of the main reasons why I love my job as curator.

How should people share their stories with you?

Communities can contact me by via email: Nasir.Adam@museumwales.ac.uk and tel: 029 2057 3426.

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