Leading museum expert calls for a permanent Black British Museum

A report by Sinai Fleury for The Voice.

A leading museum expert is calling for a permanent Black British Museum in the UK to celebrate and honour the contributions of the Black community.

Dr Tola Dabiri is one of the directors at Museum X CIC, which is home to the Black British Museum Project.

The project is an initiative to establish a permanent physical museum in the UK dedicated to Black British art, culture and heritage. Speaking to The Voice, Dr Dabiri said there is a need for a permanent Black British museum in the UK.

There is no permanence to our culture and history here and a museum would help to change that

She said: “When we speak about the Black presence in Britain, we have to keep saying we have been here for 2000 years because it gets washed away.

“There is no permanence to our culture and history here and a museum would help to change that.”


To raise awareness about the need for more spaces which celebrate the history of the Black British community, Museum X CIC has collaborated with Museums Journal for a special issue.

The new issue of the leading publication has been entirely curated by Museum X CIC and is filled with content, articles and opinion pieces about museums and Black history and heritage.

She said: “We wanted to do a takeover of the whole of the magazine and the Museums Journal said yes and it is the first time they have ever given anyone permission to create content for the entire magazine.”

The Black British Museum Project came about following conversations at the Museums Association Conference in 2019.

Sandra Shakespeare set up the Black British Museum Project in spring 2020, supported by Alice Grahame, Cherly Bowen and Tola Dabiri.

The goal is initially to enable a programme of online exhibitions and events, with the aim of eventually securing a physical space for a new museum.

According to the Museums Association website, there are approximately 2,500 museums in the UK.

Dr Dabiri believes more needs to be done to respectfully and accurately tell the stories of artefacts on display from Africa and the Caribbean.

Preserving our History

She said: “The black presence in the UK goes back 2000 years and because we don’t have a dedicated museum telling our entire story, I feel this has allowed misinformation and misconceptions take place about Black history and Black culture.

“The items on display from Africa and the Caribbean often lack a lot of information and there is very little research done on items and there is no contextualisation.

“The objects from Africa and the Caribbean are presented as colonial trophies and they are not given equal status as the other European objects in the collections.”

Dr Dabiri said most of the items on display in British museums from Africa and the Caribbean were taken during colonial times and this may be a reason why there is a lack of key information.

“The items in these museums tell the stories of conquest and they don’t tell the story of the actual object,” she added.

She acknowledged some museums are trying to improve the labelling of their artefacts but said she would like to see it implemented as a priority across the board.

Dr Tola is encouraging the community to get a copy of the special edition of the Museums Journal and said she is inspired to be part of a group who will change how the Black community is represented in British museums.

To order a copy of the Museum Journal collaboration with Museum X CIC please email: sophie@museumassociation.org

For more information on Museum X CIC visit: www.themuseumx.com or email bbm@themuseumx.com

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