Identity, diversity and citizenship: Lessons for our national museums

In May 2007, the NMDC hosted an expert roundtable in association with the ippr to explore Identity, diversity and citizenship: Lessons for our national museums. The event was held at the British Museum and chaired by Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery and Chair of the NMDC Cultural Diversity Working Group.

National museums and archives have long been concerned with enabling audiences to explore their heritage and identity and to understand different cultures. As holders of the national collections, the national museums and archives also provide a British narrative that spans both time and discipline. National museums provide a vital source of learning for other public bodies concerned with identity, diversity and citizenship.

Museums and archives are viewed as neutral, non-religious public spaces which people trust and where they feel safe. They offer expert, non-partisan interpretation of their collections and provide an impartial space for open engagement and debate. Museums and archives provide an invaluable educational tool in understanding identities, and unique opportunities to bring different people together.

Read a report of the seminar.
View ippr's presentation.

Identity, Culture and the Challenge of Diversity

This seminar was part of an ippr research project, of which NMDC is a partner, looking at the role of museums, heritage and arts policy might play in enabling people to explore and shape notions of identity and belonging.

As Britain has become more diverse, so issues of integration and cohesion have moved to the centre of public debate and government concern - never more so than since the bombing of 7th July. Yet policy thinking on identity is relatively underdeveloped. This ambitious multi-stranded project will:

  • Lay out principles for adjudicating between rival claims made on behalf of national identities, minority cultures and individual rights
  • Assess the significance of issues of identity, as opposed, say, to issues of labour market failure, or poverty, in promoting or hindering integration
  • Map recent and expected changes in the way people in Britain think about themselves and others and identify the policy challenges they pose
  • Identify the policies that are most effective in challenging divisive identities and building shared identities, with a particular emphasis on the contribution that heritage and arts policy might play in fostering common identities.

For more details visit the ippr website.