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Our journey to addressing inequality and race


Mon 15 Jun 20

The Old Royal Naval College is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

While we always strive to do our best, we realise that there is still much work to be done to bring about real change in our organisation. The perspectives through which we view our history need to be more inclusive and diverse and our staff, volunteers and visitors should be more representative of the wider community.

One of our two charitable objectives is to educate, and we are committed to introducing more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic histories into our learning and interpretation programmes, and the stories we share with our visitors. In doing this, we will provide a richer, fuller and more nuanced history of our site – one that does not shy away from difficult subjects but embraces the contemporary discussion and relevance this brings.

The World Heritage site that includes the Old Royal Naval College, has gone through major transformations in its 500-year history. Its buildings, grounds and collections do not just hold value from a historical point of view, but also offer us bold opportunities to explore new approaches, hear from a range of voices and help us see the connections between the past, present and future.

At the moment we are revising our public tours to confront our historical links with slavery and colonialism. Later this year we will be opening a new exhibition which showcases archival research into the extraordinary lives of the Black naval pensioners who resided in Greenwich in the 18th and 19th centuries. Alongside this exhibition, there will be a public lecture and the launch of a new primary school workshop, both of which will investigate the significant role that Black history has within our site. All these projects will create valuable training opportunities for staff and volunteers.

On a broader institutional level, last year we began working towards a new Audience Development Plan. In the initial staff and volunteer consultation workshops, Black and other Minority Ethnic audiences were identified as audience groups we would like to do more to welcome and serve. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic interrupted the next stage of this work, which was to run focus groups with members of our target audiences to understand more about what they would like to see from us as an organisation and visitor attraction. As soon as we are able, we will be restarting this project and look forward to learning more about making the Old Royal Naval College welcoming and engaging to a much wider audience.

The murder of George Floyd in America and the subsequent protests all over the world have led to many heritage institutions looking more critically at their past and their current situation. By becoming more representative as an organisation we can help address the lack of diversity within the sector and by telling more inclusive stories about our past, we can contribute to public conversations around decolonialisation, inequality and racism through which we can all better understand the world around us.