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Community Action Research: African and Caribbean collections

The Horniman is launching phase 2 of the project to support people from the African and Caribbean diaspora in the UK to research and tell the stories of objects in our collection.

About the project

Most of the African and Caribbean objects in our collection are not on display.

In the past, it has been difficult for community members to access these collections but this is changing. Researchers have told us that they experience barriers to investigations into collections: time, money and training, to name a few.

The Horniman is trying to find ways to:

  • make it easier for community members to engage with these collections
  • better understand these collections from multiple perspectives
  • value lived experience as an important source of knowledge
  • make informed decisions about what actions need to be taken in the future care of these collections.

 

We have invited six African and Caribbean community members in the UK to carry out online research on objects in the collections and respond to them in some way. This could be in writing, an audio or video piece, or anything else researchers would like to do, as long as it can be shared digitally.

The responses will become part of the Horniman’s permanent collections archive, linked to the digital records of the objects and available to future curators and researchers.

The Community Action Research project is taking place online in response to the challenges posed by Covid-19 but we hope that, when it is safe to do so, Community Action Researchers will be able to meet in person at the Horniman with other members of staff involved in the project.

The project works towards removing the barriers to access identified by community members including expenses and training.

As we received a huge amount of interest in the project but were only able to fund six places, we have developed a training program that will have a part that is open to the public so others can participate.

There will be 15 recorded digital sessions which will form a publically available resource for researchers, which aims to maintain access for African and Caribbean Community members in the future.

For information about upcoming training sessions, or if you wish to receive updates on the progress of the Community Action Research project, please sign up to our weekly newsletter below.

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Results from the Community Action Research pilot

During the pilot phase of the Community Action Research project, seven community researchers undertook research projects which responded to questions raised by the collections at the Horniman.

Read about the lack of African leaders present in our collections, written by Researcher Ana Epalanga, or view the Afrikan-Caribbean masquerade learning resource created by Researcher Scherin Barlow Massay with the Horniman Learning Team.

Phase two

Phase two of the project was launched 24 February 2021 with an online open day event.

African and Caribbean community members from London and beyond were invited to the open day to engage with the online collections at the Horniman. This event was well attended – with around 30 African and Caribbean community members present – which generated stimulating discussions relating to objects in the collections.

Those unable to attend the event were provided with relevant materials and support for them to engage with the online collections in their own time.

Application and Selection Process

Following the open day, all those who expressed an interest to participate in the project were invited to apply for one of the six Community Action Researcher positions.

Applicants were asked to write a short proposal of around 100-200 words which reflected on their engagements with the collections online, along with a proposed research idea that relates to the African and Caribbean collections at the Horniman.

All applications were selected using the following criteria:

  • availability to take part in training sessions;
  • willingness to participate in the development of a community research hub of information;
  • clarity of the research proposal, which demonstrated clear questions, and interests that relate to the collections at the Horniman;
  • adequacy of the research proposal and the Horniman’s capacity to support the proposed research ideas; and
  • the successful six applications reflected research projects with a balance of themes, questions, and geographic areas.

Training

The training will take place between 17 March and 14 July 2021.

There will be 15 training sessions provided to the Community Action Researchers comprising:

  • A subject specialist training lecture (which will also be open to the public, via the enewsletter)
  • A Community Action Researcher only workshop with subject specialists
  • One-to-one project sessions with JC Niala, (Acting Keeper of Anthropology and African Collections Researcher).

Training sessions will be delivered by invited subject specialists, with a range of expertise, including museum and heritage, artistic, and academic backgrounds.

Information about upcoming training sessions will be circulated via our weekly newsletter.