Skip to main content

Heritage Strategy Group – Statement on Decolonisation

Principles of anti-racism, decolonisation and social justice are for everyone. They are responsibilities for each and every one of us in our personal and professional lives. Current events following the violent death of George Floyd and subsequent expressions of Black Lives Matter protest and solidarity starkly underline an urgent need for greater understanding of how past events and actions relate to current lives, structural inequalities, and systemic challenges. Change is needed to involve everyone in building a more just future.

The University of Exeter’s Heritage Strategy Group is conscious that heritage, in its many forms, is not neutral. What is remembered, collected, archived, commemorated and taught in schools and universities is a selective representation of our collective past. Decisions about what is chosen to be remembered and what is allowed to be forgotten are inherently political. These decisions and current understandings of the past are not fixed, but continually under review by the work of researchers, heritage professionals, community members, politicians, and members of the public. Recent events have called attention to the need for greater historical awareness and public dialogue about the way heritage objects, such as monuments, present the past.

Internally, the University of Exeter is engaging with the process of decolonisation, reconsidering the curriculum and reflecting on the way the institution works and thinks; we recognise that there is significant and overdue work to do. We know that action is needed.

The Heritage Strategy Group includes academics from a wide range of disciplines with expertise in heritage, decolonisation, and justice. The University has partnerships and MOUs with heritage organisations and is committed to building capacity in the SW region, as well as working with national and international partners. We recognise that many heritage organisations are potentially currently under-resourced to respond to this important call to act, due to the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and the current closure of heritage sites, museums and archives. Civic organisations may be finding themselves asked to consider the legacies of colonialism for the first time. Thus we are positioning ourselves as allies to support collaboration and dialogue on heritage and decolonisation within and beyond the university.