Jenny Brown

Jenny Brown

Hello, my name is Jenny and I live in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I work as a curator in museums and am interested in how we can use objects and artworks to tell stories. I also love dancing.

Location Aberdeen

Activity

  • I agree that his opinions are reprehensible but I found the article linked above very interesting - fascinating to begin to understand how he came to hold those views and to understand some of the underlying beliefs and assumptions. I believe if we are to beat racism we have to engage with it, not simply condemn it, and this article helped me to see how and...

  • Yes, good point! There's a strong movement to "decolonise" museum collections at the moment and I think it's really interesting to consider who is really in control of that in light of your point.

  • Looks like a great read, thanks. This quote from the review seemed particularly pertinent to the course:
    "Frankopan quotes a Chinese commentator who has pointed out that “China had never been a colonial power. ‘If it hasn’t been in the past, why should it be now?’” But as any student of 20th-century America knows, you don’t need to call yourself an empire to...

  • I think I'm with Susan here - representative government was rarely represented all white people until late on and we saw in the course how the law was applied differently for different races.

  • Hello Rachel! Small world... Taxation without representation was the gripe in the American colonies I think...

  • Literacy levels are not as low as people often think - increasingly from the civil war onwards and with a big jump from mid 18th to mid 19th century. Even being unable to read doesn't mean you can't access information - people would read newspapers etc aloud for others in their community, not to mention the prevalence of powerful visual...

  • Yes, this week has highlighted the same to me - particularly that Victorian era propoganda and it's paternalistic vibe, does seem to linger in the British pysche.

  • Yes I agree it was largely unconscious but think that maybe it became more overt at times, for example the attempted rescue of Gordon of Khartoum brought about by public pressure.

  • I'm not so sure - the British economy was closely tied to Empire, particularly turning imported raw materials into manufactured goods. We saw earlier in the course that almost every corner of British industry had a relationship to empire. So, many working class people would have been aware that their livelihoods were linked to empire. When we reach the...

  • In an era before polls and surveys how easy is it to understand public opinion and is it realistic for us to attempt to evaluate the British imperial psyche?
    We do have evidence through the small stories of individuals' attitudes as well as other evidence such as literature, editorials and the material culture. We can evaluate the empire pysche as much as...

  • I found it interesting to learn that the colonial authorities used missionaries to further the imperial agenda in the week on religion fascinating. It is indeed almost impossible to unpick!

  • The discussion about whether these images are propoganda is a challenging one. Similar to the adventure stories, I see them as reflecting and profiting from an existing interest in empire... In doing so they perpetuate the existing colonial ideology. Because the format is so innocuous (like the matchbox we saw earlier), the viewers are not encouraged to engage...

  • I agree with the thrust of your arguments but I do struggle to unlock motives. Yes, people did believe they were improving the lives of the colonised but we saw earlier in the course how this was a narrative largely invented by Disraeli when Britain took over running India from the EIC. Was paternalism a motive or something people told themselves to feel...

  • I think Jane Eyre was mentioned earlier in the course - Rochester's wife is from the Carribbean and Jane is asked to marry her missionary cousin.

  • Good question!

  • Thanks for the recommendation, added to my reading list.

  • Not an example from India but another example of the sexualised image of the 'other' in the imperial past having repurcussions today: https://abm.me.uk/breastfeeding-information/breastfeeding-as-a-black-woman/

  • Thanks for the tip!

  • Had a brief search but only found this: https://www.rgs.org/schools/teaching-resources/gender-inequality-and-women-in-geography/

    I'd love it if they published their membership profile - it would make me feel they were more sincere about addressing inequalities.

  • It's something archives and museums are increasingly trying to address, particularly in how we collect contemporary material for the historians of the future. As well as trying to decolonise our existing collections.

  • Jenny Brown made a comment

    In my work as a curator, we often use personal stories to illustrate larger historical narratives because they are more engaging for people visiting exhibitions. Often we will feature a number of individuals or small stories (the phrase "hidden histories" was popular a few years ago) to show a range of experiences. However, we are careful not to embellish...

  • I agree - you put it very eloquently.

  • An interesting discussion... And I agree with what you're both saying but allow me one small challenge... I feel there's an underlying assumption to both your statements that the "traditional" "female" pursuits are somehow less important or less rewarding. I would argue that this is a persistent cultural bias that unfortunately perpetuates gender stereotypes.

  • It's black breastfeeding week as I read this and I've been reading about how black bodies are hyper sexualised, contributing to low breastfeeding rates, so really interested to explore the history of this.

  • I'm really interested in the role of missionaries - I've never really thought about their specific context or their motivation that much, and I'm intrigued about how the relationship with formal empire developed.

  • @ChloeRandall it's on my reading list already!

  • I highly recommend Adam Rutherford's book 'how the argue with a racist' which explores the relationship between race and genetics, including unpicking some stereotypes based on race that are prevalent today. I'm keeping it in mind as we explore this topic.

  • From my reading online, I would say that the UK government is liable because the documentary evidence is reported to indicate that Whitehall was involved, not just the colonial administration as the UK government suggests. If individuals' cases are true then there should be compensation and an apology.

    However, there were atrocities on both sides and true...

  • Yes, you've captured my feeling about this film/section - I feel we were being led to a specific answer but I was struggling to articulate it.

    Your point re. parenting though - is the difference that it is appropriate for parents to govern their own children, whereas a colonial power is akin to someone you've only just met coming in and arbitrarily changing...

  • Are Empires intrinsically violent? If we include all the forms of violence included in the film, then yes - because empire includes the imposition of some form of overarching order or powers over existing social structure.

    What is specifically colonial about colonial violence? I think it's partly that idea of an external power/state/people imposing itself...

  • Thanks for your insight. Really useful for me to begin to see the nuance between the different terms

  • You raise a good point about whether any contemporaries see value in the colonies' original way of life. We haven't seen much of the indigenous perspective yet. If good was seen though, would it perhaps have been appropriated and promoted through the machine of empire, rather than credited to source?

  • Did you hear anything about which you didn’t know, and did anything surprise you?
    I've learnt a lot about the scope of empire both in it's longevity and geographic spread. I think each era We've looked at is a huge topic and there are nuances to the academic language that we can't hope to understand in such a brief time!

    What do you think ‘Empire’ meant...

  • Thanks for the link

  • Whilst I agree we should not wipe people like Colston from history as we need to teach and learn our darker past; and whilst I agree museums are wonderful places for learning... I am a museum curator and don't want to be saddled with enormous statues of disputed figures. Most museums want to use their limited resources to seek out and preserve and share more...

  • I don't remember being taught much about Empire at school (UK) so most of my knowledge comes from novels and TV, and a few factual books written from the British perspective. Interestingly it also didn't come up much in Anthropology at university, but it must surely be relevant there... I've wanted to do this course for a while as it's pertinent to my work but...

  • Thank you for being so honest. My education was similar - where empire was covered it wasn't presented as bad, and the present day legacies not really mentioned.

  • Evaluation is not neutral - yes, never really stopped to think about it like that! In this sense, how we choose to evaluate something will determine what we consider important, and therefore what we will focus our (often limited) resources on. So for example, intangible heritage has become more prominent in recent years in tandem with an increase in it's...

  • Yes, it does have a rich industrial heritage but no, it's not a big part of it's cultural heritage offer because whilst the majority of it's older industries have now closed or moved away because of the rise of the oil industry. We didn't have an industrial crisis - Aberdeen welcomed oil prosperity and forgot to care for a lot of it's industrial heritage. I...

  • A really interesting film - as it states, it's often those relationships between different areas of governance and stakeholders that's really interesting and probably has lots of other benefits going forward.

  • Lots of people saying there should be a visitors centre but I'm not sure this is the right infrastructure - it draws visitors to a single place, and limits the opportunities for local businesses to benefit. Infrastructure is key, better transport links and signposting as well as encouraging the local community to better understand the potential available to...

  • I like the idea of local taxis within the zone. One of the government agencies could provide them with some training on the importance of the site so they can talk knowledgeably with visitors - I think they did something similar for taxi drivers in Liverpool when they were European Capital for Culture.

  • For the UK:
    Is it centralised? No, the most relevant "central" bodies are within the deveolved nations e.g. Museums Galleries Scotland for policy, strategy and funding in Scotland for museums and their collections, Visit Scotland has an overview of the quality of visitor experience and the "star ratings". However these bodies cooperate at a UK level for some...

  • @SandeepNarang Yes, I think you're right there needs to be a balance between the two. Cultural venues need to be managed professionally and maximise what income they can (gift shop, cafe and private hire where appropriate, even if visiting is free) that can support the "back of house" work such as research, preservation and curation, which is often very costly.

  • Hi @AméliePetraFeatherstone-Lee, I think the funding situation in England has been worse that Scotland for a while but we are beginning to feel the impact of budget cuts now. It's also not perfect up here either: https://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/news/27022018-creative-scotland-funding-process-completely-unsatisfactory-say-msps

    Where we...

  • Yes, I agree - we always have to demonstrate the value of what we're doing! I think the museum sector is trying hard to build the case for the social value of heritage, not just economic value, but with funding being reduced I just don't know whether the decision makers are really listening.

  • Sorry, not really answering the question but just loved this quote:
    "All our programmes have three aspects in common: they are carried out in a poor environment where there are considerable centrifugal, sometimes even conflicting, forces at play; they are designed to have maximum beneficial impact on the economies of the populations involved and their...

  • My insider's view:
    1. Outsourcing is often done through project work - short term contracts to deliver demonstrable outcomes. This has led to some really good work but it's often difficult to ensure that legacies continue after funding stops and contract staff finish. It's also made work in the sector more difficult and stressful for many.
    2. Devolution is...

  • I think point 4 may include when cultural heritage assets such as museums are moved to "trust" status. This has happened to a lot of museums in the UK - the collections of art and artefacts, and the buildings are still owned by the council (for example) and the workforce is (mostly) transferred into an arms-length organisation which reports to a Board of...

  • I think it's a balance of all of them - the state provides a framework and often funding, the city (or local community however it's defined) decides what they consider to be their heritage and how best to support/develop it and NGOs provide a mechanism for professionals/community experts to share best practice and influence/lobby the state and city...

  • A good introduction, however, shouldn't communities of interest or of place be considered a stakeholder in heritage?

  • @SarahWilliams I heard Paul Mullan speak at the Museums Association conference last year about the work in Northern Ireland over the decade of centenaries. They developed some guideline to help community groups and institutions plan events to commemorate a conflicted past and present - see...

  • It takes me away from myself. Sometimes it is beautiful and it is a chance to step outside this ordinary life. Sometimes, it's a chance to think about things from other people's perspective or see how other people have faced the same things we all face as human beings, and so reflect on my own life. Sometimes it teaches me something new about how the world...

  • Found the video a bit disappointing as lacking contextual detail - as suggested below, reading the transcript helped as well as some googling!

    I can see how rebuilding the castle has given the surrounding historic buildings back their "urban orientation" and that the Humboldt forum is envisaged as a more contemporary space, a crossroads for cultural...

  • "Surely it is ok to have the separate heritage as well to show how the past has influenced the present which is now finding a new culture together." Agreed!

  • Do you think large cities can be allowed a high degree of independence from the countries they are in?
    As other people have note, large cities do naturally develop more independence because of their size, they have more influence and resources tend to accumulate there. However, I think their independence should be regulated by the country they are in.

    If...

  • Excellent examples, thank you. However, in contrast, recent Governments have pursued the idea of city-region funding deals and metropolitan mayors, which have increased the power of larger cities.

  • Yes, i'm interested in the historical parallels

  • Oh, this is an interesting question! Aberdonians are fiercely independent I think (speaking as a non-native resident of 11 years), so the idea of seeing themselves as independent of the nation, bolstered by the last 30-40 years of economic prosperity brought to the city by the oil industry, is a big part of their heritage. The narrative of being a global city,...

  • A really thought provoking article, thank you.

  • You're so right @AMUiChuirc! It must be so hard to maintain those traditions but I imagine they also benefit - perhaps a greater sense of community and belonging than so many people living in urban places far from their origins.

  • Have you done the Future Learrn course on antiquities trafficking and art crime? Lots f discussion of these questions there.

  • Thanks for sharing Sarah, and I agree with you that the people of Syria should be the ones to decide the future of the sites.

  • @AMUiChuirc @BeatrizMerchánDíaz Thanks both for a really interesting discussion. I too had been thinking that the destruction of these sites, though terrible, is not as important as saving and rehousing the people themselves. International experts can help to stabilise and make safe the sites until the Syrian people are ready - they might then choose to...

  • No, I don't think heritage policies should always follow economic logic. I think they should be written collaboratively by professionals and the community of interest, setting out the priorities and then the resources allocated appropriately. The economic value of cultural heritage is mapped and calculated these days because in hard times, people in charge of...

  • Hello Ruth, interesting points but I'm not sure how we make all heritage programs self-sustaining? As an example, in archaeology, new building developers have to pay for excavation work, and the stabilization and writing up of research... but not the cost of preserving that material in a museum forever? So how could we make that sustainable? Or do we not keep...

  • Yes, I think this should be the aim too

  • @JanetteT I agree that glorification is the wrong word these days, and that the interpretation of the past has changed (and is always changing). Within museums, I certainly think the role is to tell the story of the past, put it into context and get people talking about it - they can then decide what is good or bad.

  • Hello @LeeA - yes, you're right, the picture is looking pretty bleak right now for publicly funded museums! Lots are trying to do more contemporary work but it's often project-funded and short-lived, so hard to see in main displays.

  • I've always focussed on the "heritage" part and the etymology of something "heritable" - i.e. passed down through generations. Agree that it is widely used in the UK though, and means different things in different contexts and by different people. Common thread though - most people using the term apply it to something they consider valuable.

  • Thanks @AnneNolan - that's where I work!

  • I like the idea of heritage as inherited from the past, and that it is used by people to express the culture as it exists today

  • Jenny Brown made a comment

    Language, customs, creative expression (in widest sense!),mindset, manners

  • In Aberdeen we have a clearly tangible heritage of granite buildings, the intangible heritage is the knowledge of the masons who built it, who worked the stone, the techniques, the language, the small unrecorded histories of each construction project. Sadly not much of this has survived.

  • That interplay between people and place is interesting - I guess there are some peoples for whom an intangible heritage is more important than place because they are nomadic. But I also wonder whether place is dominant in current discourse around cultural heritage because of the drive to maximise the economic benefits of tourism?

  • Thanks Margaret, Cameron and Jeremie - a really interesting discussion.

    Aside from its relationship to the us/other dialogue, I think there are also instances where people are afraid to share their heritage (or aspects of it) because they do not wish to lose control of it, or they consider it to be sacred in some way.

  • I work in museums, so was familiar with the idea of places, buildings and artefacts as heritage and aware of the movement to recognise intangible heritage but hadn't really thought of natural heritage.

    I'm really interested in those ideas about classifying and organising, and how labelling gives power - particularly with a view to how something enters the...

  • Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

    We're most often known as the granite city or as the oil/energy capital of Europe. The first is because our city centre (and a large part of the city built before about 1960) is made from the granite quarried locally and the associated industry making ornamental granite architectural features and memorials. The second because the oil...