End 'absurd' role for Britain's museums

Director's call to replace 'illogical' tradition with more social duty

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The Independent Online

A leading UK museum director says institutions that do not move beyond their traditional role of collecting, preserving and researching are "illogical and absurd". David Fleming, the director of National Museums Liverpool, said museums have a duty to fight for social justice by actively participating in the debate on human rights.

In a speech to an international conference in Brazil this week, he will argue that traditional museums that primarily collect, preserve, research and interpret sources were "limited in their scope of social responsibility".

He cited the example of Liverpool's International Slavery Museum, which he said has been working to change Liverpool's black community's feelings of being "alienated, undervalued and besieged" despite having a presence in the city for hundreds of years.

Mr Fleming will argue that museums have changed on an international scale over the past 30 years, and have become less obsessed with preservation and grown more extroverted and socially responsible. He attributes this change to the financial pressures politicians put on institutions to cost less but still attract visitors, as well as having a diverse workforce with an interest in social history.