Museums can inspire a passion for politics and democracy.
What a difference a few days can make. In the past week, the UK has been on a political roller-coaster, and I’m sure I’m not the only person reeling from the ramifications of the general election results – a visibly shaken Labour party, the first all-Tory cabinet since 1997 and huge SNP gains in Scotland.
While many people took to social media to express shock, anger and jubilation, others took to the street. Anti-austerity marches have taken place in England and Wales, and no doubt more are to come.
Petitions are popping up left, right and centre about the NHS, the Human Rights Act and in favour of changing the voting system to proportional representation. Suddenly, democracy is trending.
Museums such as the People’s History Museum in Manchester have actively engaged with the election, and I expect many of the issues that have come out of it will continue to be discussed and explored in its galleries.
Unfortunately, its direct approach is one that most other museums shy away from, but there are other ways to inspire a passion for politics and democracy through collections and displays.
One example is L8 Unseen on display at the Museum of Liverpool until 6 September. The photography exhibition aims to uncover the spirit and heritage of the city’s most famous and diverse postcode.
Filmed interviews and photographs by Othello De’Souza-Hartley are curated and produced by Marc Boothe of B3 Media, who has worked with the Liverpool 8 community to uncover stories and hidden gems. All the photographs feature residents of the area (from religious leaders to activists, artists and community campaigners) and buildings and places that have significance to L8 (many were founded by the transatlantic slave trade).
There is nothing explicitly political in the exhibition, yet by bringing these stories, people and places together, visitors are given a strong sense that ordinary people can make a difference – and their voices do matter.
This is surely key for reducing political apathy and ensuring a commitment to democracy, whatever your political leanings.
– written by Rebecca Atkinson