Inclusive Collections, Inclusive Libraries #RLUKICIL

Over the past few years, cultural heritage institutions, including research libraries from across the UK and beyond, have intensified their efforts to decolonise their collections and practices. Developing more inclusive collections, where a variety of voices are represented, is necessary to create a culture where equity, inclusivity, and diversity are the driving forces and where scholarship and learning can thrive.

However, there is a need for honest discussions about what drives decolonisation in institutions, how initiatives are delivered, the successes and failures, which can lead in identifying current gaps and needs in the sector.

Inclusive Collections, Inclusive Libraries is an RLUK programme of events that aims to foster conversation around decolonisation and inclusive practice in collecting, describing, presenting, and engaging with content in research library collections. It seeks to raise awareness about the opportunities and challenges of dealing with, contextualising, and engaging with offensive collections while also identifying and sharing examples of good practice.


New Inclusive Collections, Inclusive Libraries will be announced in the new year. Please check back on this page for updates.

Who should attend?

The Inclusive Collections, Inclusive Libraries series of events are virtual events that are free to attend and open to all. Staff from RLUK member institutions and other cultural heritage institutions nationally and internationally are particularly encouraged to attend.

▶️ Watch #RLUKICIL talks on demand

All Inclusive Collections, Inclusive Libraries talks will be recorded, and you can watch previous events on the RLUKICIL on Demand page.


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Decolonising the curriculum and the role of the research library

7 February 2023, 14:00 – 15:30 (GMT), 15:00 – 16:30 (CET), 16:00 – 17:30 (SAST/EET), 09:00 – 10:30 (EST), 06:00 – 07:00 (PST), 22:00 – 23:30 (AWST/CST)

Higher Education institutions in the UK and beyond have been increasing efforts to decolonise the academic curriculum. The reason is often twofold and linked to the current need to offer modules and academic content that represent the interests of their diverse student communities as well as to tackle racism and inequality across the campus.

Research libraries play a leading role in the process of decolonisation through their collections and expert support of their staff, which in many cases has led to a review of existing institutional practices and processes. During this seminar, professionals from three RLUK research libraries will discuss the role of the research library in decolonising the curriculum, share their experiences and reflect on the opportunities and the challenges that this role involves.

Addressing the colonial legacies in the University of Liverpool’s heritage collections
Joanne Fitton, Deputy Director Libraries, Museums, Galleries, and Robyn Orr, Liaison Librarian for the School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool Library

This talk will outline the current project work on the heritage collections by Libraries, Museums & Galleries staff, and how this is related to, and informed by, academic, institutional and external partnerships.

Joanne Fitton is Deputy Director of Libraries, Museums and Galleries at the University of Liverpool, having joined the University in November 2022. In this role she is responsible for leading Heritage, Education and Digital. Joanne moved from the University of Leeds where she was Associate Director: Special Collections and Galleries.

Robyn McEwen-Orr is currently on secondment as the Liaison Librarian for the School of Law and Social Justice, however her permanent role is as the Academic Services Librarian within Special Collections and Archives at the University of Liverpool Library. She coordinates the Special Collections and Archives departmental project work in regards to colonial legacies.

Decolonising library collections: contemporary issues, practical solutions and examples from LSE

Kevin Wilson, Academic Liaison and Collection Development Manager, The London School of Economics and Political Science Library

In his presentation, Kevin will provide a summary of the book chapter he contributed to ‘Narrative Expansions: Interpreting Decolonisation in Academic Libraries’, edited by Jess Crilly and Regina Everitt (Facet Publishing). The presentation includes a historical overview of the development of LSE Library’s collections and how a recent collection evaluation confirmed the strengths and weaknesses of those collections. It also focuses on bias within collection development and reading lists across academic disciplines. The presentation culminates in some practical tips that libraries can take to develop more diverse collections.

Kevin Wilson is currently on secondment as one of the Assistant Directors at LSE Library. He is also the Academic Liaison and Collection Development Manager and the Librarian for Economics, the Language Centre, Mathematics and Statistics. He joined LSE in 2017, and previously worked at Goldsmiths, University of London and City University. He has presented at a number of conferences and events, and written book chapters and blog posts on diversifying library collections over the last four years.


The Sandbach Tinne Project – slavery colonialism and the digital archive

Monday 27 February 2023, 11:00 – 12:00 (GMT), 12:00 – 13:00 (CET), 13:00 – 14:00 (CAT), 14:00 – 15:00 (EAT), 06:00 – 07:00 (EST), 19:00 – 20:00 (AWST/CST)

The ability to conduct effective archival research is contingent upon several factors, including; institutional collection policies, (who decides what the collection priorities are?) Academic affiliation, (what access is there in academic institutional archives for public historians and community researchers who are unaffiliated?) Effective indexing and cataloging (how is this impacted by limited human resources in the archival sectors?) Digitisation and transcription, (to what extent have the archival and academic communities adopted digital migration measures for collections?) Disparate collections (how practical is is to travel to the various locations that house segments of related archival materials?)

These are practical questions that span the breadth of subject areas and the entire academic and archival sector. However, when contentious and problematic histories  are the subject (such as enslavement and colonialism) these barriers often become defensive harbours for deliberate, – as well as incidental – discriminatory practices. 

These include; limited or absent collection prioritisation of Black history. The rejection of contentious archival deposits that might show British or western society in a bad light. Furthermore, the lack of diversity in the higher echelons of the sector and the broader Academy, when combined with the prevalence of analogue archival materials, behind layers of bureaucracy, has resulted in limited access and a lack of research, by comparison to other subjects during similar periods, such as the Napoleonic wars, or the Industrial Revolution. 

These barriers were all encountered by Malik Al Nasir when he sought to trace his ancestry back through plantation slavery in Demerara. Malik took to purchasing archival materials related to his ancestral slave owners know as Sandbach Tinne and Co., in order to wrench control of the archival materials necessary to uncover his own enslaved and colonised history. 

To confront these questions and begin to eradicate these obstacles, Malik created The Sandbach Tinne Project. 

Now reading for PhD in history at University of Cambridge, Malik is working with museums, galleries, records offices and universities in the UK, USA and the Carribean, in an ambitious project to identify disparate Sandbach Tinne collections and to unite them digitally in one authoritative digital dataset, that can be researched, curated from and interacted with by academics and the public alike.

 Malik will discuss the development of the project that will act as not only a pilot for a multi-agency approach to decolonisation of archival materials, but that will attempt to begin to decolonise the archival sector in the process. 

Malik Al Nasir is a 3rd yr PhD candidate at the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge – St Catharine’s College. He is a performance poet, an author and a public speaker. Malik delivered the keynote at the Museums Association annual conference 2021 on decolonising the archive, and the Federation of Human Rights Museums conference in 2020 on the right to culture under article 27 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights . His research on Sandbach Tinne has been published in The Times, The BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and broadcast on the BBC World Service and BBC Radio 4 among others. Malik is currently writing his second book for HarperCollins entitled “Searching for my Slave Roots.”

Malik Al Nasir, PhD candidate, University of Cambridge and performance poet, author and public speaker

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