Spurlock Museum to remodel Africa exhibit


Photo courtesy of Spurlock Museum of World Cultures

The Spurlock Museum of World Cultures has housed “Looking Forward, Looking Back,” their Africa exhibit, since the museum opened in the late 1990s. Due to Chancellor Robert J. Jones’ Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program, however, the exhibit is set to be reinterpreted and redesigned in the near future.

By Fiza Dahra, Staff Writer

The Spurlock Museum is set to remodel the permanent Africa “Looking Forward, Looking Back” exhibit.

The remodeling of the exhibit is being funded by Chancellor Robert J. Jones’ Call to Action to Address Racism & Social Injustice Research Program. The program is providing the museum with $75,000 in funding.

According to the call to action, “This shift acknowledges the questionable ways the museum came to own some objects, the erasures of history and the implicit use of racial stereotyping in describing objects.”

Monica M. Scott, the museum’s manager of Community Engagement and Programs, said she notices that Africa is seen through only “one frame of reference.”

“I think we get a tendency to pigeonhole the continent, and we look at it only from one frame of reference. But that’s unfair to all of the people, to all of the cultures, to the history, to the contemporary life and culture of the people in Africa,” Scott said.

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    Scott is the program leader for the remodeling of the exhibit and started working at the museum in 2017.

    “So much has changed over that time: how we talk about objects, how we talk about cultures, how we present information, who is included, and so I thought it was necessary for us to revisit some of our permanent galleries,” Scott said.

    According to Scott, “one of the challenges Spurlock Museum has, especially being a museum of world cultures, is identifying and providing information and context around the diversity of cultures, not only in Africa, but also around the world,” Scott said.

    Africa is a large continent, and Scott said that attention should be brought to all of the many things happening inside it.

    “Africa is a huge continent, and sometimes it’s even weird to just say Africa as if it’s monolithic — it’s not. There are so many different conversations that are happening on the continent that we don’t know anything about,” Scott said.

    The museum aims to have surveys released for visitors, which will allow them to receive feedback regarding the galleries in the museum.

    After redesigning and reinterpreting the galleries, the museum will produce a final report that will aim to inspire other museums to recognize the importance of this process.


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