The UWI Museum celebrated International Museums Day on Thursday May 18, 2023 under the theme Museums, Sustainability and Well-being.
Defined as not for profit institutions, museums are permanent organisations that operate in service of its community through collecting, preserving, exhibiting and education programming. The UWI Museum exhibition Surviving COVID-19: Reflections and a Photographic Journey documents the impact of a traumatic contemproary moment on not only the institution’s programming but its stakeholders and the wider community. An exhibit that preserves institutional memory, we provided space for feedback from our community through our COVID word wall. Visitors used simple but profound words and phrases to describe their COVID-19 experience.
However, the In Memorium Wall did receive a similar response as it reminded many of persons family and community members lost during the pandemic and the ways in which prevention measures fundamentally altered grieving practices. Recognizing that the exhibition was potentially triggering for those who suffered significant emotional, financial and social hardships, we provided a quiet space for our visitor’s to reflect, and to have a private moment to themselves.
Museums have a responsibility to think ethicially about the ways in which exhibition programmes and themes affect their stakeholders and devise simple but informed strategies where possible to mediate impact. As practitioners we are also required to think about the well-being of our stakeholders. How does the language employed in an exhibition enhance or detract from a visitors experience? Are our exhibition spaces accessible to all members of the public regardless of ability? While it is not possible to please and cater to all members, it is important to be aware of the ways in which we do not cater to our stakeholders. This awareness is integral to shaping how museums evolve (bearing in mind limited resources and mandate) to engage their communities. Consequently the relationship between the museum staff and museum stakeholders is one of exchange both through the creation and production of knowledge. One should never exist without the other.
Therefore, in honour of International Museums Day, the UWI Museum team continues to document, collect and exhibit The UWI’s history and continued relevance to the region and the global community while developing a sustainable practice that continues to support the wellbeing of our stakeholders.
Happy International Museums Day!