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Museums Galleries Scotland To Coordinate Consultation On Scotland’s Colonial And Slavery History In Museum Collections

Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) welcomes the announcement in the Programme for Government that the Scottish Government will sponsor an independent expert group to recommend how Scotland’s existing and future museum collections can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history. This group will be independently chaired, representative of relevant interests, and be diverse in its membership. 

As the National Development Body for museums and galleries in Scotland MGS will coordinate a national consultation, in collaboration with Glasgow Life to establish public and expert perspectives. A related research exercise will identify the work already in progress in this area in museums across Scotland.

The history of slavery and the social, economic, and cultural impact of colonialism are entrenched in museum collections and heritage sites around Scotland and the sector is increasingly vocal in their commitment to working to show the full history of their collections.

Through exploring the need and opportunity to tell the story of Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade and colonialism, MGS recognises the work already under way in the museum sector and elsewhere. Many institutions have much to offer and are working hard in this area – including those with a national remit. Museums from the University of Aberdeen, to V&A Dundee and Glasgow Life, are researching and expanding how they tell the stories in their collections to communicate Scotland’s involvement and profit from the slave trade, colonialism, and the continuing racial injustice in Scotland and across the world. 

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said:

“It is important that we recognise Scotland’s role in these painful parts of history, to ensure we learn from the mistakes and atrocities of the past and be certain they are never repeated.

“By listening to the views of people from ethnic minority backgrounds, working with Museums Galleries Scotland in collaboration with race equality stakeholders, we will better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history.

“We will also consider what further steps should be taken to ensure people of all ages are aware of the role Scotland played and how that manifests itself in our society today. This will include how to reflect, interpret and celebrate the wide-ranging and positive contributions that ethnic minority communities have made and continue to make to Scotland.”

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said: 

“The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the critical need to understand and act on the racial injustice and colonialism that is still prevalent today. Museums are integral parts of communities as spaces to reflect and ask questions. Through revisiting and expanding the stories and histories they tell museums can play a key role in helping us all to have a better understanding of our past.

“We welcome the partnership with the Scottish Government on the consultation around how Scotland’s existing and future museum collections can better recognise and represent a more accurate portrayal of Scotland’s colonial and slavery history. This is both a necessary moment of reflection and an exciting opportunity for museums to reach new audiences.  

“We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and a range of race equality and museum sector stakeholders to explore all options.” 

Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life said: 

“Glasgow Life welcomes the opportunity to work with MGS in the National consultation process, exploring how Scotland’s museums can better recognise and represent the country’s colonial and slavery history. This will link with an established programme of work in Glasgow and coincides with the appointment of Glasgow Museums first curator of Slavery and Empire.” 




Glasgow Life is an independent charity which provides culture, leisure and community learning services to citizens and visitors to Glasgow. In 2019/20, more than 18m attendances were recorded across our venues, events and festivals.


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