The Museum test is a series of questions and prompts to assess how the gallery or display handles topics of colonialism, empire, slavery, the transatlantic slave trade and representation more broadly. The Test can be used on existing displays, with the ambition of sharing it with the wider sector to serve as a tool for museum professionals in developing new displays.
The museum test was first piloted during the pilot changemakers programme in September 2021. It was inspired by various conversations and explorations of the legacies of slavery and empire with young people, museum assessment frameworks and other forms of tests such as the Bechdel Test and the Riz Test. The museum test, which has evolved from the original basic listed criteria such as the ones in the Bechdel and Riz test, to it’s format now of a flow chart and points system, has been developed over 18 months by the changemakers to provide a tool for the museum sector, specifically for curatorial and decision making practice, to support their journey to better understand and improve their practice of telling stories about people of colour, and those linked to colonialism.
The test manifested from many conversations with the OSCH Glasgow Changemakers and museum professionals exploring their experiences of things like the British education system, racism and tokenism, media portrayal of minoritized communities, the culture of the heritage sector, and their aspirations to see a more representative and safe space for people of colour in museums.
The test has been launched with supporting material, including guidelines for the user, a glossary of terminology and recommendations. These have been included throughout the editing process of the test through feedback from internal Glasgow Museums workshops and external workshops facilitating the test with museum professionals. The workshops, lead by the young people, provided an opportunity to pilot the test and gain valuable feedback to improve the test to be useful for the users.
With the test being launched through Museums Galleries Scotland and shared on social media, it is also being incorporated into internal Glasgow Life Museums’ project management process to ensure that it becomes a vital tool used in the decision making process of future displays and exhibitions, which is key to our journey of improved anti-racist practice and better representation of and collaboration with people of colour. It has also been well received at conferences and sector events where the young people have presented the test and their working behind it.
With support from Glasgow Life Museums, British Council and Museums Galleries Scotland, The Museum Test has been launched as a valuable tool for the sector, which is a hugely positive outcome for the Changemakers in making an impact on the sector, a key goal for the OSCH project. It is now available as a downloadable tool on the MGS website under advice topics resources for Anti-racist practice.
All of the work the Changemakers Museum Test working group have contributed, including initial development, editing, design, facilitation, documentation through photography and film, and social media posting; has been paid, and we are continuously learning about how and where we can make our payment processes and models more accessible for young people and communities undertaking work like this.
I have been a part of changemakers since the pilot programme in 2021. During those sessions we (myself and 3 other young people) came up with the outlines of the museum test. Having stuck with the project throughout, watching it grow from beginning to end has been an incredibly educational process for me. I have learned the ins and outs of working within the museum sector and, on a more personal level, I have grown a lot more comfortable when it comes to facilitating discussions with large groups of people and presenting our work. Overall, I am so proud of what we have a achieved and have found my experience with OSCH extremely rewarding and enjoyable.