The Spanish government is launching a major project to decolonize the country’s museums

This is a divisive project in Spain. Six months ago, the Spanish Minister of Culture, Ernest Urtasun, announced a decolonization of national museums. On July 8, he kicked it off with two first institutions: the Museums of Anthropology and America, both located in Madrid and within which the Ministry “has already begun the overhaul of the permanent exhibitions thanks to the creation of two committees of experts”, reports the newspaper ABC.

These committees, which include artists and other professionals from the sector chosen by the ministry to support the museum’s management, will work on technical reports intended to serve as a basis for the final projects that will be completed by 2025, in order to renovate the permanent collections in light of current issues. According to the ministry’s press release, which does not use the term “decolonization,” the conservative daily concedes, it is about “modernize and enrich knowledge of the collections”, in line with the new policies of the International Committee of Museums (ICOM), which refer to the “cultural diversity and the participation of local populations”, or “the renewal of museography”.

Efforts already launched

The conservative daily is one of the few critical voices against the policy led by the environmentalist minister, a member of the Green Left party and the left-wing coalition in power in Madrid. It thus denounces the lack of autonomy of the institutions, which “will have to listen to a host of consultants chosen by the ministry, many of whom have an activist position.”

ABC recalls, however, that these efforts are not new in the world of Spanish culture. The minister had already praised the work carried out by the Thyssen Museum around of these questions. And the Museums of Anthropology and America have already adopted the name “Abya Yala,” used by the indigenous people of America to describe the continent, and made changes to their labels and policies on human remains to be more respectful of the people they promote.

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