Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Central Lancashire
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Anthropology
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Making Histories Visible produces visual art projects with
internationally recognised museums and galleries, in which new artworks
and installations activate institutional and curatorial policies to
re-examine collections and collecting. By investigating the historic
through the contemporary, using the mechanisms of display and
interventions, youth centred workshops, symposia, web-sites and
publications; we help museums find new relevance within contemporary
Thin Black Line(s) Tate Britain (2011/12), Cotton Global
Threads Whitworth and Manchester Galleries (2011/2012), Jelly
Mould Pavilions NML (2010), reflect collaborations and sustainable
relationships with a wide, influential range of museum curators, directors
and community leaders.
Professor Lubaina Himid and Ms Susan Walsh joined UCLan in 1990 and 1998
respectively. The researchers asked questions through visual art practice
about how to show that the cultural contribution and participation of
ethnically diverse communities, at every level, can develop and enrich the
museum experience for a broad range of audiences, while encouraging a
sense of belonging and a desire for engagement.
Impact on Institutional Policy
Himid's strategy of interweaving new artworks into the display of
historical collections, and co-curating and recontextualising collections
in new ways, allows previously invisible issues to surface. In 2004, Himid
made Naming the Money having investigated work in the collection
held at the Hatton gallery (Newcastle). It allowed discussion around
forcible migration, whilst also initiating a dialogue between the museum
and the local communities using neglected fabric samples from the
collection. Nine years later this work was acquired by the International
Slavery Museum (Liverpool), and in 2007 this installation was central to
the exhibition Uncomfortable Truths at the V&A which
commemorated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave
trade in Great Britain.
Examining and constructively critiquing museum acquisition records, Walsh
made it possible to develop broader more inclusive collecting policies.
Complicated issues inherent in making visible the diversity of British art
history became easier to debate, when facts and figures around works and
artists represented in collections were transparent and quantified.
Walsh's study on the National Art Collections at Tate (2005), for the
first time, examined all artists in the collection, and linked them by
ethnicity. Between 2005 and 2007 there was a significant increase in
acquisitions of work by artists from the black diaspora within the Tate.
Impact on Cultural Discourse
Thin Black Line(s) (2011) reassessed a `lost' curatorial moment and
illustrated the connectivity and influence of black women artists working
in London in the 1980s on contemporary art practice at the turn of the
Himid, in a curatorial role, raised questions about the level of
recognition or celebration of the contribution made by these artists to
cultural landscapes internationally. Working with a range of museum
services to interrogate their collections, she used artworks as
interventions to trigger dialogues around hitherto neglected creative
Celeste-Marie Bernier in The burial and un-burial of women
(Hampton University Press) says "Leaving her audience under no illusions
that the paintings, installations, photographs, sculpture and drawings on
view are in any way representative of the total work produced by Black
female artists in Britain, Himid liberates her viewers to take account of
the artistic and political rationale for this group display"
Impact on Social Inclusion
When the work of black artists is central to an exhibition or museum
display, both programme and education curators have found that they can
initiate discussions with young audiences around identity and belonging.
National Museums Liverpool, for example, commissioned Himid to work in
collaboration with a small cluster of their public venues including Lady
Lever Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum and Sudley House. The
project Jelly Mould Pavilions for Liverpool (2010) developed ideas
around memorialisation, commemoration and the city by using museum
collections as forums through which to weave difficult questions about
ownership, hidden histories and the future of the strategy to make visible
cultural contribution. This work added to the strategy for meaningful
local community engagement by combining material from collections and
archives across the world, and `heroic' portraits developed from local and
References to the research
Details of the impact
Three groups benefited from this research:
- museum professionals working with collections, programmes and
- museum audiences -artists, critics, collectors and historians;
- new, young and community audiences - using art to learn about other
subjects and those who meet together for social and political projects.
Museum professionals (Impact on institutional policy)
Initially, Himid's work with museum professionals was to meet audience
inclusion targets, to include all members of the community. Through her
research within a museum collection, she was able to shift the focus to
interrogate institutional policy.
For example, with Merseyside Maritime Museum (2010), Sudley House (2010),
Platt Hall (2011), The Whitworth (2012) and Tate Britain (2011) Himid's
strategy was to interweave new artworks into the display of historical
collections, and co-curate and recontextualise their collections in a new
way. This enabled public discussions around work held in the permanent
collections to examine migration, identity, belonging and memory while
allowing a broader debate to take place about travel, colonialism and the
decorative arts, specifically, Late at Tate (2011) and Open
Days at the Heiman Kreitman Archive Tate Britain (2012). Himid's Between
the Two my Heart is Balanced was used as the main marketing image
for Tate's collection exhibition Migrations. This represented a
strategic conversation between the museum and their target audience, with
Himid's work as a focus for debate.
Beyond their initial expectation, the Tate took the unusual decision to
extend the 7 month exhibition run of Thin Black Line(s) by six
weeks in 2012 to include Easter visitors to Tate Britain, responding to
the public's desire to engage with the topics raised by TBL(s). This
engagement led to the acquisition of new work by TBL(s) artists Ingrid
Pollard and Sutapa Biswas for the Tate's permanent collection. Himid's
artwork Moments and Connections and Walsh's Images and
Conversations in the 1980's were both acquired for the permanent
Himid's installation Naming the Money was recently acquired by
International Slavery Museum (Liverpool) for use as an introduction to the
museum and its work (National Museums Liverpool). The accessible format of
the work is intentionally designed to enable debates and issues of
enslavement to reach the widest range of audience possible.
Himid's Kangas from the Lost Sample Book (2012) informed The
Whitworth Art Gallery workshops to raise issues relating to Colonialism,
Britishness and the decorative arts. In-house programme curators worked
with education curators archivists and acquisitions teams to improve cross
institutional communication around neglected histories, collections and
loans. Himid was commissioned by the Whitworth to become part of the
advisory group and asked to write a catalogue essay for We Face
Forward: Contemporary Art from West Africa.
Museum audiences (Impact on Cultural Discourse)
Audiences familiar with international exhibitions, national collections,
established artists and historical artefacts are comfortable with
attending events at museums, and regard the museum as a place for which
they can claim ownership; feel at home. However, this can turn into
complacency and subsequent lack of interest.
Exhibitions that challenge complacency, through collection intervention
and reflect societal shifts during the past 50 years, initiate debates to
emerge among audiences about cultural contribution, globalisation and the
links between art and politics.
For example, The Jelly Pavilions for Liverpool project encouraged
people to visit outlying National Museums Liverpool venues, in addition to
the use of shops and cafes as exhibition spaces across the city.
Thin Black Line(s) gave access to research into the central role
played by black women artists in cultural debates during the 1980's.
Importantly, the method of access via maps, archive material and show reel
allowed a simultaneous historical contextualisation of the works on
display. For Himid and Walsh, established audiences for art have to take
responsibility for sharing what they discover, and this process of reading
the historical through the contemporary makes this more possible.
New, young and community audiences (Impact on Social Inclusion)
Himid and Walsh often speak to audiences informally as well as by
invitation in person about their work. They often explain their work
within a public context, and see dialogue as an opportunity to develop
practice. Their work directly relates to issues of belonging, cultural
contribution and migration and how attitudes to this, and experience of
this, have shifted during the past two hundred years.
The debates that arise informally in museum galleries, or formally
through museum workshops, are triggered by the artwork itself: reinforced
by the technical simplicity of the artworks this encourages participant
self-expression. They have found that people enjoy artist led encounters
which mix visuals and narrative: Himid's Jelly Mould Pavilions won
the People Choice Award for the 2010 Northern Art Prize.
Their interventions into collections are designed to encourage an
awareness of public ownership and responsibility: even accountability. New
and young audiences have been enabled through the device of exhibits in
alternative but connected venues to get a sense of another layer of
British Art; this has allowed an accessible entry into contemporary art.
Several interventions have proved to have the potential, to tap into
popular/youth culture, black culture and memorialisation. In specially
designed young peoples' creative workshop series, weekly discussions
exploring ideas have been developed. The young students made new artworks,
which were then exhibited to highlight the issues locally (2010/2011) with
Sources to corroborate the impact
Contact 1: Dr Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain.
Contact 2: Jennifer Harris, Director, Whitworth Art Gallery.
Contact 3: Dr Miles Lambert, Director, Platt Hall (Manchester Art
Contact 4: Dr Celeste Marie Bernier, Professor of African-American
Studies, Nottingham University.
Contact 5: Christine Physick, Director of Creative Development,
Plaza Community Cinema, Liverpool.