Black And White Noise of the British Museum

White noise is referred to the audible frequency of sound vibrations and Black noise is often used to describe what's essentially silence or what's silenced in this case.

What is history if not storytelling?

The British Museum tells a story of ownership. Ownership over the exhibited countries, their history, their art and architecture and their people. It grandly displays the relics of colonial massacre as a thing of the distant past, rather than a thing that has had lasting wounds on the oppressed. It amplifies the white noise and silences the black noise.

I visited the museum recently and I suddenly became cautious of my identity. I bring with me my heritage of belonging to a previously colonised country. I was made aware of how my country's losses were added to their trophy collection at the British Museum. What does it mean for the museum to exist in the 21st century in London and what does this says about the British that still profit from the spoils of colonialism?

'wouldn’t it be nice to see the whole of human history, free and open to all?


Except that history is nasty and ugly. It’s full of violence: every moment, every event, takes place within a power dynamic – there’s always a hierarchy in play. The whole concept of The Museum is a colonialist, imperialist fantasy, born from the fallacy that somehow the whole world can be neatly catalogued, contained in a single building, mapped out for easy digestion. There’s no such thing as a free object, and every piece in a museum has been moved from its original context. It’s uncomfortable and rude to look too closely at what that move involved.'

- Alice Procter

I started wondering what it meant for my culture to be represented within the four walls of the British Museum with barriers and 'do not touch' labels? A space was created between where I was stood and where my heritage was. Even though I was surrounded by objects that indicate home, I felt out of place, around me were mainly white visitors and museum workers. What does it mean for predominantly white museum experts to represent what is the worlds most diverse museum in its artefacts? Who owns this history and who are these stories for?

What is the British Museum if not a zoo of colonial artefacts, locked up with the beautiful heritage of colonised countries, out of their natural habitat, built for the white gaze. The expectation of whiteness from their visitors is so deeply engrained in their museum that Jane Portal, 'Keeper of Asia' when asked how they make information accessible to a wider range of people during #AskACurator, said:

What's in a name? Well, identity, culture and heritage. If that's too much trouble then here's an idea, return the stolen artefacts.