We Need to Talk about Class: Towards a class-based approach in contemporary museum theory and practice

Serena Iervolino, Domenico Sergi

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Abstract

Class differences have historically received limited attention in museum theory and practice, and scholarly publications on issues of class and heritage are still scarce. COVID-19 has shone a particularly harsh light on class divisions. At the height of the pandemic, working-class laborers (such as supermarket cashiers, social care workers, truck and delivery drivers) were asked to shoulder high levels of health risks, exposing entrenched socioeconomic inequities. In this article, we build upon a small-scale research and collecting project, Inequalities, Class, and the Pandemic, carried out in 2021 by the London Museum (formerly known as the Museum of London) and King's College London, to discuss how museums can meaningfully engage with working-class lived experiences in our contemporary neo-liberal societies. We begin by analyzing whether and how museums have addressed working-class issues and (hi)stories. We then draw on the voices and experiences of our research participants to examine the ongoing structural inequalities experienced by working-class Londoners. Building on our empirical research, we argue for museums to play an active role in reclaiming the centrality of class in public culture, particularly addressing the contemporary lived experiences of working-class people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–63
Number of pages13
JournalMuseum Worlds: Advances in Research
Volume11
Issue number1
Early online date1 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • working class, museums, pandemic, diversity, equality, contemporary collecting.

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