Monday, 14 December 2009


Huei-Wan Wang's subject 'British Chinese in Museums' focused around the engagement and representation of the British Chinese community in British museums. The shifting nature of this community in terms of it's ethnic makeup and distribution across the UK is complex and impacts significantly upon how these connections are made.

Through studying various kinds of projects and methods of engagement - educator-led outreach at the Geffrye Museum which concentrated on Chinese culture; the Chinese Education Programme at the V&A, 1991-2008, which aimed to bring the Chinese community into the museum; the Peopling of London Project at the Museum of London in 1994, a curator-led exhibition, which in response to community criticism, created community led exhibitions and events; the Trading Place at the British Library in 2002 - the paper maps the changing nature of these encounters over the last decade (1990-2002). Clearly, the differing motivations of the projects also impact significantly upon what and who is presented and how.

It makes me wonder about how these different methods could be used to present the same community in very different ways. Like the geographical locations highlighted in 'Prayer', how a community is engaged with a museum both determines how the museum is presented to that community and how that community is presented to the outside world. Who has authority in these situations? The idea of 'community' as one homogeneous mass is untenable. There are always changing identities and positions within societies and the speaker may not share the attitudes of the spoken for. This will always be the case, most likely, but a recognition of such dominant voices remains worthwhile. Thus, the subjectivity of interpretation can be made into an object in it's own right.

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