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© Errol Francis

Museums are increasingly sites of ethical dispute reflecting urgent socio-political and cultural issues. Controversies include: the display of human remains; dealing with objects acquired during the colonial period; and the killing of animals for scientific study and natural history display. 

This theme takes as its starting point the idea that polarisation of opinion on these and other issues can inform positive and productive sites of deliberation, with the potential to arrive at new theories and practices to shape museums of the future. 

We will experiment with new methods to explore how divergent ethical positions can be engaged. A curated series of contrasting experimental displays will be tested with focus groups with contrasting positions, where we can inquire into what the museum collection of the future might look like. 

In our experiments, selected museum spaces will be transformed from being primarily concerned with the display of objects into a place of scholarship and deliberation supported by a library, and other research facilities: a 'musaeum'.

Experiments will be conducted using alternative methods of displaying and communicating information about the subjects, reflecting the status quo and then with the anticipated change or alternative. Focus group participants will be asked to respond on a number of key indicators such as how much they have learnt, what they have seen compared to what they have learnt, whether their positions have changed, and what arguments (and from whom) persuaded them to do so.