Black Lives Matter: The Centre for Design History, July 2020

We are living in a particular historic moment when issues of systemic racism and structural inequality are rightly coming under urgent scrutiny, brought to global awareness by the Black Lives Matter movement. Universities, researchers and educators across the board have a responsibility to acknowledge the ways that we contribute to these inequalities. We would like to outline the contribution and commitment of the Centre for Design History to these debates; we aim to be open and responsive and to actively learn from the movement.

The Centre’s approach is decolonial in perspective and fundamentally questions the values of design histories as they appear in the traditional canon of knowledge. We recognise that this canon reproduces dominant power relationships and a Eurocentric vision that marginalises other voices, perspectives and positions. Our publications, exhibitions and other forms of public engagement seek to redress these inequalities. Dedicated to the analysis of design and material culture from the widest possible geographical reach, the Centre commits to producing critical understanding and new knowledge by:

  • Foregrounding the historical acquisition and display of cultural property and ordering of knowledge based in imperialist and colonial practices;
  • Recovering the experiences of marginalised voices, exposing cultural privilege and practices of exclusion on matters of race, ethnicity, gender and class;
  • Examining the role of many forms of design in political change and social justice


Along with our professional colleagues, we would like to add our support to the following joint statement of intent for the heritage sector:

The Black Lives Matter movement began in America after a series of killings of black people in or following police custody. The movement has resonance in the UK, not least because of our nation’s history in which racism has become entrenched.

As the leading membership bodies representing the UK museums, galleries, heritage and archives we take responsibility for ending racism in the heritage sector. This work is overdue. This work is non-negotiable. It cuts across all aspects of our sector, from the collections we curate and preserve, the people who make up the heritage workforce, to the learning programmes we deliver.

The conversation and the action is ongoing.

We commit to pro-actively support:

  • representing our members across the heritage sector, acknowledging that our nation’s history and heritage is an invaluable tool in the fight against racism and discrimination.
  • anti-discrimination debate and discussion in the care of and access to heritage collections.
  • seeking, and taking care of the needs of a diverse heritage workforce.
  • members to develop diverse collections.
  • asking questions and challenging practices that support racism in all of its forms.
  • that now is the time to be anti-racist.
  • doing the work involved to end discrimination here and now.

The Group for Education in Museums (GEM)
The Association of Independent Museums (AIM)
The International Council of Museums UK (ICOM UK)
The Museums Association
The Heritage Alliance
The Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland)
The Association for Heritage Interpretation