I stand by my exploration to date, after all you can’t think everything at once, but my thinking has moved on. I still think that there’s a kind of expectation about what might be included to describe the Cornish as a minority – with some of them cited in the papers to support the awarding of the Cornish National Minority Status. But, rather like my thinking, there are layers and here’s another one.

In our last session (‘Curators in the Community’ on 6 January 2020) we talked about one of the key challenges in museums being diversity. The ‘problem’ in our museum is the dominant lens is that of a white male, as explained in my previous blog. It’s not unique in this respect, and does present a curatorial challenge. What hadn’t occurred to me before the session, was that in finding the marginalised voices, the untold stories, we can use layers of time. Maybe I can choose an object, cite what I can discern about it, and then add some different layers, different voices to amplify the unheard.

Tehmina Goskar talked about a project that RCM were doing about LGBTQ+ communities in Cornwall. They have a blog about LGBTQ+ Cornish people, but their reference objects aren’t those in RCM, but rather linked art works to other sources. It wasn’t what I was expecting to see. It was also quite dense in its use of language, and heavily referenced.

The V&A offer LGBTQ tours (the last Saturday of every month), whereby their volunteers explore items in the collection which have a strong LGBTQ connection. Buried in their website is a whole lot more that the museum is doing to address this particular aspect of diversity. The museum has a working group, a blog and active community engagement. I spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour yesterday afternoon following one of the LGBTQ tours (recorded by the i-newspaper). What struck me about this tour is that the objects selected were diverse (ceramics, glass, sculpture, photograph, posters, a dressing room, snuff boxes…), and that the narratives were about the artists (the photographer, Fane Kayodey) as well as who owned the items (like Frederick the Great and the snuff boxes) or who were depicted (April Ashley on a Grayson Perry vase). 

It’s all about layers!

This gives me freedom and renewed enthusiasm for the Cornish National Collection task, because we’re not just looking back. We’re looking around and maybe even forwards. My humble list of objects in the museum feel more like time portals, it’s a question of deciding where we could go. We have a key meeting tomorrow as a group of museum volunteers… I wonder where it will take me.