Religion in Museums

When museums and religion collide

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African-American faith goes on display in DC

Donation by Dr. Charles Blockson of Harriet Tubman items

Harriet Tubman’s personal book of hymns, dated 1876 (©2016 NMAAHC)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, in Washington DC, opens  on 24 September and will include over 2,500 artifacts related to faith and religious history. That’s 10 per cent of its collection.

According to Adelle M. Banks, writing for The Gazette:

Tucked in the back corner of [the underground history galleries] is a space decorated as a brush arbor – the secret hideaway where slaves could worship freely.

…Another case displays a kneeling altar from First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles and a Catholic choir chair from New Orleans. A third features artifacts about African-American Jews.

…Musical artifacts in the museum’s exhibits range from Tubman’s “Gospel Hymns No. 2” to a Grammy and a lime- green jacket from the Dixie Hummingbirds, a group that Ellis described as “the standard-bearers of gospel singing” for more than seven decades.

Sports figures highlighted include two-time Olympian Gabby Douglas, whose 2012 book, “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” has been in the American History gallery, and boxing great Muhammad Ali.

…Five chaplains are featured in the military history gallery, along with the Bibles of service members, one from a soldier in the segregated military of the 1930s and another from a female West Point graduate who was killed in Iraq in 2006.

In the segregation gallery are the crucifix and chalice of Louis Beasley, a World War II chaplain who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart after saving the lives of two soldiers.

…The museum will [also] feature African tribal and folk religious objects such as a voodoo doll and a bottle tree, which is believed to capture evil spirits.

Read the full article here.

You can also explore the collection online at the NMAAHC’s website


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The Museum of Mankind: a recollection and consideration

Saturday 30 April 2016, 10:00 – 17.30

Stevenson Lecture Theatre, Clore Education Centre Registration at 09.30 with the first presentation at 10.00 Tickets £10, concessions £5 (coffee breaks provided) or +44 (0)20 7323 8181

So many of the papers for this conference concern ‘religion in museums’ questions that blog-readers may like to take note of it.


The Museum of Mankind, between 1970 and 1997 a branch of the British Museum located in Mayfair, is remembered fondly for innovative exhibitions and lively programmes. Curated by anthropologists and archaeologists, it was also important for an emphasis on objects from Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Asia in their original contexts, for engagement with indigenous communities, and for innovations in museum anthropology. This one-day conference draws together the recollections of former staff in a reflection on the Museum of Mankind’s contribution to the world.

Details of the conference are at: Museum of Mankind Conference

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What Matters? – A conversation exploring challenges and opportunities in preserving British Muslim heritage.

EPSON scanner image

EPSON scanner image

Where and When: 26th March 2016, Richmix Venue 2, 1.30 – 5.00pm

Go to:!what-matters/c144e
In our second Annual event the Everyday Muslim team will bring together a host of speakers to represent a variety of voices to discuss and evaluate the changing ways in which Muslim and Islamic heritage is represented and archived, incorporating topics such as identity, representation and access. As well as, examining a host of challenges faced by diverse organisations and individuals in the heritage sector. By the end of the session we hope to have a first stage collaborative document of recommendations for organisations and individuals planning cross sector Muslim heritage projects.


1.30 pm
Arrival and Informal Networking. Opportunity to speak to funders
(Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available throughout the day.)

2.00 pm
Introduction by Everyday Muslim

Presentations and Discussions

2:10 – 2:30 pm
Who Are British Muslims?
Muneera Williams | Poetic Pilgrimage, Spoken Word Artist

2:30 – 2:50 pm
Why Do We Need To Look Again?
Faridha Karim | Oral Historian

2:50 – 3:10 pm
Why Do We Need Partners?
Carien Kremer | Curator at William Morris Gallery and Vestry House Museum

3:10 – 3:40 pm
Break – Informal Networking and a chance to speak with funders.

3:40 – 4:00 pm
Why Teach Muslim Heritage In The Classroom?
Martin Spafford | Co-Author of the new OCR Migration unit (history Curriculum), retired history teacher

4:00 – 4:20 pm
Media Representation
Tharik Hussain | Media Studies teacher. Journalist and Broadcaster

4:20 – 4:40 pm
Where Will Our History Live?
Halima Khanom |Heritage Professional / Everyday Muslim Volunteer

4:40 – 5:00 pm
Feedback and Summary

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Gladstone’s Library: Explore the relationship between art and Christian faith


1st – 3rd April – a weekend at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, near Chester

The relationship between Christian faith and visual art is an immensely rich one but it can also be challenging. On this course you will explore this association from the Middle Ages to the present day, using seeing as a means to thinking about faith, creativity, politics and identity, the imagination and about God.

Sessions include ‘Light and Darkness’, ‘Touch and the Body’, and ‘The Problem of God in Contemporary Art’. There will also be a screening of the film Museum Hours (2012) directed by Jem Cohen. The weekend is led by Debbie Lewer, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Glasgow. Debbie says:

‘Art is older than the Christian faith, of course, but human beings have always used visual images of one kind or another (figurative, abstract or symbolic, in private and in public) to articulate their individual and collective responses to the divine. People have always argued, sometimes violently, about the nature and place of images in Christian life; I’m fascinated by how works of art themselves can play a part in articulating, challenging, affirming, offending, deepening, revolutionising and even awakening belief.

Residential prices start from £192, non-residential from £150. Discount rates for clergy and students apply.
Read an interview with Debbie here and click here for the full programme. For more information or to book, please call 01244 532350 or email

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tin tabernacle, anyone?

East End

This splendid tin tabernacle – once a school chapel – is looking for a good home. It was acquired a good many years ago by the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum at Singleton in Sussex, who have since  re-erected a simpler and more typical example. They would like to offer this, now lying in pieces in storage, to another museum. If you have any suggestions, please get in touch with the Curator, Julian Bell, at

Interior circa 1910

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Does Religion Belong in Museums? Wallace Collection Special Evening Event


Wallace Collection Special Evening Event

Tuesday 22nd March, 2016

6:30pm – 7:30pm

Price: £7.00

Lecturers: Aaron Rosen, Christoph Vogtherr

As part of the Wallace Collection’s participation in the multi-venue exhibition Stations of the Cross: Art and Passion join Aaron Rosen, author of Art and Religion in the 21st Century, Christoph Vogtherr, Director of the Wallace Collection, and Revd Professor David Jasper, University of Glasgow, and Jonathan Ruffer, Chairman of Ruffer LLP and Auckland Castle Trust as they discuss this contentious topic.

The Wallace Collection
Hertford House
Manchester Square
London W1U 3BN
United Kingdom
Telephone +44 (0)207 563 9500
Fax +44 (0) 207 224 2155

For disabled parking enquiries please call +44 (0) 207 563 9524

Tickets from the Wallace Collection website