Workshop: Minority Involvement in Museums

Since 2012 visitors to the Civic Guards Gallery of the Amsterdam Museum can walk on a 40-metre carpet created by Amsterdam-based artist Barbara Broekman. Inspiration for the carpet came from the demographical richness of Amsterdam: around 180 different nationalities (the number fluctuates every year). Broekman designed the tapestry by combining details of images from various cultures ranging from Belgian lace to Turkish carpets to South African Zulu body decorations. These were transformed into the carpet, which she called ‘My City, A Celebration of Diversity’. This artistic addition to our museum street can be seen as a metaphor for the dilemmas that city museums face within the super-diverse cities of today. The carpet is an artist’s vision of harmonious multiculturalism, each culture (if we can equate nation with culture) taking up its own square in a quilt-like representation. In reality there are not 180 equal groups but rather a mixture of smaller and larger minorities. Today half of the population of Amsterdam is born, or has parents who were born, in another country. Amsterdam is one of the most diverse cities in the world. These different ethnic groups are by no means internally homogenous.

Stephan Vertovec called superdiversity one of the most prominent characteristics of contemporary cities. Ethnicity or national/cultural background is only one of the social variables; we must also consider, amongst other things, gender, age, length of stay, patterns of spatial distribution and immigrant legal statuses.

In this workshop I will briefly present some cases of the museum working with ‘minorities’. These range from the first Turkish migrants of the 1960’s, football supporters, transgenders, descendants of slaves, graffiti artists and prostitutes. After showing the ways in which the Amsterdam Museum represented their (hi)stories in the museum, the participants of the workshop are invited to share their experiences with minorities with who they worked together or would like to work together. Please bring one example and tell us briefly how you would work with this specific minority group.