The moments found in this section are motivated pieces of writing, video or audio, all constructed in order to get something across. Each piece – written by a member of museum staff, an Above the Noise collaborator or a member of the research team – is designed to draw out significant moments of insight and to indicate where there might be scope for development and change.
You will find that a strong theme concerns how staff who work in the National Science and Media Museum might understand Bradford better, both its histories seeped in the story of British colonialism and post-colonialism and its current communities. Calls to understand Bradford better might be best understood as calls for the museum to more deeply understand ‘the nation’ and what it might mean to be truly national.
Part of this is a specific challenge to engage with race and the politics of racism – something that became of undeniable importance in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in the U.S.. As moments by both staff and collaborators foreground, it is important for the National Science and Media Museum, as an organization that is predominantly white, to look actively at whiteness and the kinds of working cultures created for staff who are Black or of colour. Through addressing this default whiteness – which makes it hard for race to be spoken about – it is clearly felt that the National Science and Media Museum will ultimately create a place that people from a much richer diversity of backgrounds will be comfortable to work in.
Running through the moments is the question of how the museum can collaborate more fully with people in Bradford. Collaborators called for slower, more flexible and more responsive ways of working which centres human rights. Complementing these views from collaborators, museum staff speak about the power of the conversation, of being out exploring Bradford or of the visceral impact of being reminded why museums collect objects.
Yet alongside this potential, the challenges this poses for the museum were also very much acknowledged. Staff moments focus on how to make visible the limitations in what is possible, how to create institutional change in an organisation where decisions are made with significant managerial oversight, or of the incompatibility of flexible and responsive ways of working with the delivery models of temporary exhibitions.
Together, what the moments point to is an incredibly rich field of possibility. However, they also surface twin dangers. Both, of a lack of deep understanding of the people that live and work around the museum and of not being open about the genuine difficulty of a large national museum – part of a group of national museums – becoming more responsive, flexible and collaborative. Such recognitions were explored in detail in the process described in Part 2.