A new approach to re-interpret objects of tainted British history. Invitation only.                                                           





AIATSIS & Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester

The panel discussion Approaching Our Past: Tackling an Uncomfortable Truth will be moderated by Renée Pfister. The discussion focuses on a museum collection, a repatriation, and a public sculpture, all presenting facets of tainted British history. It is long overdue to recognize what once were legitimate activities and behaviors of powerful individuals; the exploitation and impact of the violence and anguish were grossly unjust and wholly unacceptable. With George Floyd’s death last year, the BLM movement finally gained worldwide attention, addressing these ongoing inequalities.

In this session, we examine how two museums and a city have dealt with these extremely sensitive issues. A paradigm shift aiming to reconcile and heal, to inspire a new vision and walk an inclusive path comprising all world cultures. Our future can only be prosperous by acknowledging and respecting our differences and shared values, the building blocks of civilization.


FRANCES COLES: Frances Coles ACR is the Conservation & Documentation Manager at Bristol Culture. She originally trained as an objects’ conservator at Cardiff University, graduating in 2002 and achieved accreditation in preventive conservation in 2009. Having started her career with Historic Royal Palaces and English Heritage she worked at the Science Museum for 11 years before relocating to Bristol. Now she manages a team of conservation and documentation specialists for Bristol City Council. 

GILLIAN SMITHSON: Gillian Smithson is current working as Whitworth & Manchester Museum Registrar, at The University of Manchester. Informed by over 20 years working directly with Museum & Gallery collections  in Brighton, London and Manchester, Gillian Smithson encourages frank  and compassionate discussion on current issues facing collections and the people who care for them including repatriation, dispersals and climate emergency.

MARENKA THOMSPON-ODLUM: Marenka Thompson-Odlum is a Research Associate at the Pitt Rivers Museums and a doctoral candidate at the University of Glasgow. Her doctoral research explores Glasgow’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade through the material culture house at Glasgow Museums.  At the Pitt Rivers Museum, she is the researcher on the Labelling Matters project, which investigates the problematic use of language within the museum spaces and ways of decolonisation through re-imagining the definition of a label. 

RENÉE PFISTER: Renée Pfister brings over 20 years of experience in working in the museums and art world where she applied her MA in Museums and Gallery Management to academic and collections management roles. As part of the curatorial team at the British Museum she was involved in realising major projects such as the Great Court and the Weston Gallery of Roman Britain. At Tate she worked as a Registrar and was responsible for managing acquisitions and groundbreaking International Programme exhibitions. Following on from International Programme Exhibitions, since 2010, she is managing her own consultancy. 



Please note that this session is by invitation only.

The session will take place live at the date and time stated above. You will receive an email 24 hours before the talk with detailed instructions of how to access the talk.

Folk Art: A look at our cultural heritage, our communities and our identity, and how we choose to express this knowledge and pass it on as inspiration.
According to UNESCO: Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

Culture and its heritage reflect and shape values, beliefs, and aspirations, thereby defining a people’s national identity. It is important to preserve our cultural heritage, because it keeps our integrity as a people. Folk Art is rooted in traditions that come from community and culture. Artists working in the Folk tradition today are telling stories, they are passing on inherited legacies, symbols, characters. The objects may be decorative when once they would have been utilitarian, but the passing on of knowledge remains the same.

Meet some of the artists involved in this years’ Platform showcase, Abe Odedina, Carol McNichol, Cecilia Charlton, Denise de Cordova and Frances Priest.

Abe Odedina
Cecilia Charlton 3
Carol McNicoll
Denise de Cordova Headshot
Frances Priest