History Matters ProjectA Policy Exchange Project
- Tuesday, 2 March, 2021
13:00 - 17:00
The way in which history is displayed and taught in museums, in galleries and in public spaces is currently a subject of greater contention than ever before.
There is increasing pressure on institutions, on public bodies and on local councils to remove artefacts from public display, or to explain or rename what is there. Through its fortnightly compendium of evidence, the History Matters Newsletter, Policy Exchange has been leading the way in documenting how our shared history is being contested.
Policy Exchange’s March 2021 History Matters Conference is the first event to bring together leading decision-makers and professionals in the museums and galleries sector and other experts in order to develop new public policy approaches than can be applied broadly.
Since the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, a number of councils across England and Wales have stated their commitment to reviewing local street names and—where these are deemed to have a contentious history—to considering renaming them. In several instances, the decision-making process with regards street name alteration has excluded residents and locals, in spite of the immense direct impact street renaming has on a street’s residents.
On 11 February 2021, Churchill College, Cambridge – in collaboration with the Churchill Archive Centre, which is part of the College – hosted the second event in its year-long series ‘Churchill, Race and Empire’. It featured a panel discussion entitled ‘The Racial Consequences of Churchill’, during which a series of factually incorrect and profoundly offensive remarks were made by the three panellists – Dr Onyeka Nubia (Nottingham University), Dr Madhusree Mukerjee and Professor Kehinde Andrews (Birmingham City University) – and also by the Chair, Professor Priyamvada Gopal (Churchill College, Cambridge), about Sir Winston Churchill and concerning several major historical events.
This is the seventh edition of our rolling compendium, which attempts to draw together a range of recent developments that turn on the place of history in the public square – including the removal of certain statues on public display, the renaming of buildings and places, and changes to the way history is taught in educational curricula. In cataloguing these examples, we do not offer any judgment on the actions of the individual or institution in question, today or in the past. Our aim is simply to provide a clear documentary record of what is happening – which can help inform public debate on these issues. At present, the evidence confirms that history is the most active front in a new culture war, and that action is being taken widely and quickly in a way that does not reflect public opinion or growing concern over our treatment of the past.