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Terminology Working Group

Language usage

Language is neither static nor neutral. It is an ever-changing system of meaning and means of communication. Words that were in common usage decades ago no longer fit within our value system today. This has consequences for the language we use in the museum: language that does not undermine history, but which also fits with contemporary shared values in a diverse society. Many terms that date from the colonial era, or were coined within a white, Eurocentric context, cause a growing feeling of discomfort today. The museum is aware of its responsibility in this respect and realises that it is not neutral in the choices it makes. The museum’s current language usage is far from ideal, and a working group has been set up to undertake a critical examination of the language and terminology used by the museum.

We welcome your questions and comments regarding language. Please email us at: lisa.heinis@gmail.com

History, diversity and inclusiveness

History is a reflection of the past seen from the present. It therefore always bears the stamp of the time in which it was written and the perspective from which the past is viewed. The museum is aware of this and wants to work towards an approach that reflects a diversity of voices. In order to provide an insight into different perspectives and the changes over the centuries, the museum considers it important that old texts, titles and descriptions are retained in our database, so that they remain available for research purposes. At the moment, the emphasis within the discourse is very much on the colonial past, and this is also the museum’s current focus. The museum is acutely aware that history, and the pursuit of diversity and inclusiveness, is not restricted to the colonial story and we plan to implement additional changes in the future.