Blog Interview with Gina Tavares Manuel about Represent Museums have a duty to represent societies in their true light and present the stories, told and untold pertaining to the diversity Why did you apply for Represent? I applied for Represent because I was interested in the work done behind the scenes in museums. I’ve always loved to walk around museums and take in the history, artefacts and machinery and I wanted to know the entire process behind curating. This was a new opportunity and something I’d never done before, in fact I’d never even heard of the word curate and this attracted me to the project. I also applied because I was drawn into the idea of seeing how museums actually represent people of colour and if there was enough representation. Museums have a duty to represent societies in their true light and present the stories, told and untold pertaining to the diversity and not just the idea that Britain is white, male led. What was a typical day like? A typical day on the Represent project was us as the participants engaging with different talks and workshops over zoom. Those of us who could be there in person were in a room in the museum, socially distanced, and connecting to the participants online. It was a good way to learn in depth how curators come up with ideas on how to best represent a piece of history and the people involved. We had some moments where we toured Armley Mills and were able to ask questions and take pictures of the pieces we most connected with. In the end we presented, in groups, an idea for a project we wanted to create that best represented people of colour who had contributed to Britain and had to present to a panel (the collaborators for the project) with the notion that we’d receive funding our ideas. Race is not a topic to be pushed to the side with the idea that it is ‘too difficult’ to understand...It is important to discuss these issues especially in spaces such as these What surprised you about this project? What surprised me about the experience was how open the curators and those leading the project were about race and racism, all aspects were highlighted with a consideration to our mental health and how this may have affected us. I was also surprised at the diversity on the project, most of us were women of colour, and this was the first time I’d been in a project like this. What surprised me the most was the openness and honesty of the curators when we asked them questions they did not have the answers to. They may not have known the answers but were willing to investigate and take more action. What was the main thing you learned during Represent? The main thing I took away from the Represent project was that curators are people in positions to make a change and they should push for diversity and narratives that have been ignored. They are also in a position to challenge themselves and others within the organisation as to why there is a lack of representation and what they are doing to change this. What I also took from this project is that racism and race is not a topic to be pushed to the side with the idea that it is ‘too difficult’ to understand or that it does not exist. It is important to discuss these issues especially in spaces such as these. Has it impacted you long term? The project has motivated me to want to work with museums further and be a part of the curating process as my voice is important and representation matters. This has also led me to apply for new opportunities that have stemmed from Represent and continue the work as there is still a lot to be done. What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure about applying to these types of projects? I’d tell anyone wanting to embark on a project such as Represent to go for it! It’s a great opportunity to network and learn new skills. It is also a place where you can use your voice to make a change and be listened to. I’d always advise people to be open to trying new things as you never know what you will get out of it. ABOUT REPRESENT In October 2020, 15 young people spent four days uncovering Leeds’ industrial heritage and its links to colonialism. They investigated the archives of Leeds Industrial Museum for stories of people of colour, learnt about the process of curating exhibits and developed proposals for pieces of artwork that engaged with the stories they found. Represent was part of Ignite Yorkshire and was delivered by the Geraldine Connor Foundation and Heritage Corner. Watch the short film: Photography, Film & Edited by Ashley Karrell (www.Panoptical.co.uk) Ignite Yorkshire is one of 12 projects in the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Kick the Dust programme which aims to make heritage relevant to the lives of a greater number and diversity of young people across the UK and is led by IVE.