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IMD2020 Think Piece by Gus Casely-Hayford, Director V&A East, London

International Museum Day (IMD) takes place on Monday 18 May 2020.  The theme selected by ICOM for 2020 is Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion.  Visit ICOM’s IMD website for more information on the theme and to see the map of events taking place digitally across the world

To mark IMD2020, ICOM UK and the British Council have invited contributors engaged in the discussion on diversity and inclusion to contribute a short think piece.

In the coming weeks over a dozen of these specially commissioned thought pieces will go live on the ICOM UK website.  Well known contributors include Gus Casely-Hayford, Director V&A East, London and Raphael Chikukwa, Acting Director, National Galleries in Zimbabwe.

Below is the first Think Piece, written by Gus Casely-Hayford, Director V&A East, London.  All of the Think Pieces and other IMD2020 activities organised by ICOM UK and the British Council will be collated on the IMD2020 page of the ICOM UK website.  Take a look today to see how you can contribute to IMD2020


Even before I left school, I began to spend my holidays earning money to travel in search of more complex cultural narratives – across the Soviet Union, inter-railing through Europe, hitching down the spine of Africa, cycling across Uttar Pradesh, busing through Central America, walking the Bagan plains – always on a frayed shoestring, always skirting danger, always stopping to drink in culture, always wanting more.  It felt like the world was opening up, flowering with all the newly embraced equalities, shimmering with all of the progress being won – as the old obstructions and inertia gave way to real hope.  The fall of the Soviet Union, Apartheid – the opening up of the world through new digital networks, the recalibration of global economics, the rebalancing of international politics all served to make us believe that the great polar dichotomies and enlightenment prejudices were finally being fatally undermined.

But I was wrong.  We were wrong – despite profound global change and progress over the last three decades, we continue to face many of the same challenges that our parents faced, we must re-fight the same institutional battles, re-tread the same legislative paths.  Post-Brexit, in a moment defined by COVID-19, new walls and obstructions are appearing, old tropes and habits re-emerging.  As so many great thinkers have posited, the path toward progress is not linear. We must diligently graft for and celebrate every inch of progress, but we must then equally diligently police the areas of micro-slippage and compromise.  We must push on where possible, push back where necessary, and recognise that though we make progress, this will be a long, possibly ceaseless journey.

Gus Casely-Hayford, Director V&A East, London