‘World Cultures Curating’ – Zulkifli Ishak, Curator, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, ITP 2017

The second day (Friday 4th October 2019) of the Museum Association Conference Brighton commenced with a keynote session, ‘What is a museum?’, a refreshing subject for museum professionals and delegates that discussed a variety of meanings and interpretation about the museum, and controversies about its definition. The speakers for this session including Richard Sandell, Professor of Museum Studies, Leicester University, Jette Sandahl, Museum Consultant and Errol Francis, Artistic Director, former mental health campaigner and chief executive in the United Kingdom.

My highlight for the final day of the conference was a session on, ‘World Cultures Curating’. This session featured three museum curators; Rebecca Bridgman from Birmingham Museum, Rachael Minott from Horniman Museum & Gardens and Christo Kefalas from the National Trust, who shared their experiences with the audience about the skill sets, requirements, and behaviors needed for those who work with world cultures.

‘World Cultures Curating’

Rebecca Bridgman, Curatorial & Exhibitions Manager who specialized in Middle East and South Asian collections spoke about the Birmingham Museums’ practices and how they respond to their world culture collections. Rebecca, who is also a Chair of SSN Islamic Art and Material Culture mentioned about the importance of collaboration with other curators from different specializations, as well as academicians in order to approach a wide scope of world culture collections. Rebecca Bridgman and Rachael Minott have collaborated for the temporary display / exhibition, ‘The Past is Now: Birmingham and the British Empire’, at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The engagement with communities that are belonging to certain cultures is crucial as curators have the ethical task to represent them responsibly. Christo Kefalas, specializing in Oceanic collections, is working on preserving Hinemihi (the Maori meeting house) at Clandon Park, Surrey and she briefly shared her project that requires a connection with diaspora Maori communities from New Zealand.    

As a curator at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) who deals with Islamic civilization collections from around the world, somehow this session is relevant to me. It generally gave me an overview about the practice of some museums in the United Kingdom on dealing with their world culture collections. This session also highlights challenges and barriers experienced by museum professionals who are working with global content.

Museum Association Conference Brighton 2019 concluded with the remarks of Ahdaf Soueif, the British-Egyptian writer, activist, cultural and political commentator, and a former trustee of the British Museum.

Our final evening in Brighton