Thursday 24th June 2021
17:30 – 20:00 BST

17:30 Welcome
Monica Degen (Brunel University London)
Clare Melhuish (UCL Urban Laboratory) and
Lauren Parker (Museum of London)

17:45 In Conversation: A New Museum for London
A conversation about the challenges and opportunities of creating the new Museum of London in West Smithfield.
In conversation
Sharon Ament (Director, Museum of London), with architects
Asif Khan (Asif Khan Studio) and
Paul Williams (Stanton Williams)
Chaired by Monica Degen (Brunel University London)

18:30 Film: “Capital Culture: Museums, Cities, Cultural Power
An introduction by the filmmakers Tom Butler and Paul Moody.

18:45 Global Perspectives: Museum Directors in the City
A panel discussion exploring the historical legacies, current responses and
future possibilities for urban museums around the world.

Panel members:
Sharon Ament (Director, Museum of London)
Yves Goldstein (Chef de Mission, Kanal Pompidou, Brussels)
Chrischené Julius (Head of the Collections, Research and Documentation Department, District 6 Museum, Cape Town)
Claudia Zaldívar (Director, Museum of Solidarity Salvador Allende, Santiago)
Chaired by Lauren Parker (Museum of London)

19:30 Q & A

20:00 END

Friday 25th June 2021
10:00 – 17:45 BST

10:00 Session 1 PLACE

In this first session, we interrogate the relationship between museums and the places in which they are located. Museum buildings are not designed solely to store and exhibit collections but also as symbolic opportunities to support city branding, attract visitors, stimulate place-based regeneration, and build architectural reputations. As public and civic institutions, museums also have a duty to reflect critically on their capacity to generate social change. If the prospects for future global sustainability depend on cities taking responsibility for the socio-economic wellbeing of their citizens and visitors, from health, climate action and inclusive economies to effective governance and racial justice, what part should museums and cultural organisations play in this process?

Whether purpose-built or converted from existing landmarks, museums can be perceived both as drivers of regeneration or as expensive and contested flagship projects that generate little perceived benefit to ordinary city dwellers. We present a range of critical perspectives that explore the spatial, economic, cultural, and sensory relationships between museums and their urban settings, and alternative cultural agents and strategies.

Judit Carrera (Director, Centro de Cultura Contemporanea, Barcelona)
Gus Casely-Hayford (Director, V&A East)
Stephen Pritchard (independent researcher)
Amahra Spence (MAIA)
Chaired by Clare Melhuish (UCL Urban Laboratory)

11:30 – 12:00 Break

12:00 – 14:00 Lunchtime Activities

Grab a sandwich, get comfortable, and join us, and some very special partners, for a series of informal lunchtime activities that explore some of the key issues emerging from our discussions. Sessions include:


  • Julie’s Bicycle
    Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Climate Chats are live conversations with leading thinkers in culture and climate on just transition, new economics for a regenerative economy, the net zero carbon challenge, and climate justice. Join us for a Creative Climate Chat with Sadie Young, Director of Timespan. Timespan is a cultural organisation in Helmsdale, a village in the very north east of the Scottish Highlands, with local, global and planetary ambitions to utilise culture for social change. We’ll be discussing how museums and galleries can uncover and contextualise local histories and how they can connect to wider movements to help enact radical social change. We’ll also be joined by Hilary Jennings, who will tell us more about Happy Museum and their new partnership with Julie’s Bicycle. Sign up to participate, ask questions and be part of the conversation.
  • Museum Detox: From Finding Safe Spaces in Hostile Environments, to Re-imagining Liberated Spaces
    Join Museum Detox to consider different experiences within our hostile built environments and how we might reimagine these spaces as liberated places in the future.
  • Capital Culture: Museums, Cities, Cultural Power
    Film Screening and Q&A
    In this session Tom Butler, Paul Moody and Monica Degen will discuss the process and thinking behind producing a short experimental film that sums up some of the key themes that inform the symposium.

13:00 – 13:50

  • Museum of Homelessness: Making a Museum in the 21st Century – Three Provocations
    This session will run over the lunch hour, with 3 provocations for the profession from the Museum of Homelessness crew and plenty of space for a lively discussion. Presenter/facilitators include Matt & Jess Turtle, Paul Atherton and Benji Lain.
  • Virtual Tour of the New Museum of London
    Join the Museum of London’s new project team and architects Stanton Williams for a special ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the new Museum of London in West Smithfield, one of the largest cultural capital projects in Europe, currently under construction.

14:00 – 15:30 Session 2

In the second session, we examine what city dwellers and visitors want from a contemporary museum engaged with its local neighbourhood and the wider city. Historically museums have made a concerted effort to attract a wider range of audiences to their buildings, motivated often by paternalistic concerns. While some museums have been successful in engaging with diverse audiences, challenges around equitable cultural participation persist. Not everyone is attracted to the notion of a ‘museum’, its buildings or institutional symbolism. This session reflects critically on how museums can be relevant to and representative of the diverse, unequal and often transient populations of cities. These discussions will provide space to conceptualise what a museum created by, with and for its city entails.

Hannah Ishmael (Archivist, Black Cultural Archives, London)
Sophia Labadi (Professor, University of Kent)
Cláudia Rose Ribeiro da Silva (Coordinator, Museu da Maré, Rio De Janeiro)
Sara Wajid (Joint CEO, Birmingham Museums Trust).
Chaired by Sarita Malik (Brunel University London).

15:30 – 16:00 Break

16:00 – 17:30 Session 3 POWER

The final session interrogates the institutional power embodied by museums – past, present and future. Museums have historically played a key role in nation building and colonial enterprise, shaping and representing particular cultural ideologies, social value systems, and hierarchies of power. Their influence in public debate continues today in relation to evolving concerns: around sustainability and the environment, economic inequalities and social justice, globalisation and marketisation, decolonisation and migration. Simultaneously, they act as powerful spatial players in the redevelopment of urban environments, participating in the branding and marketing of areas identified for regeneration, the maximisation of urban property values, and the production of new cultural landscapes of consumption. This session considers how museums and other cultural organisations should respond to these pressures, and what roles they may play within our global urban emerging futures.

Pedro Fiore Arantes (Professor, Federal University of Sao Paolo)
Wayne Modest (Director of Content, National Museum of World Cultures, Wereldmuseum, Rotterdam)
Beatrice Pembroke (Director of Culture, King’s College London)
Andrea Phillips (BALTIC Professor, Northumbria University)
Chaired by Monica Degen (Brunel University London)

17:30 – 17:45 Concluding Thoughts

Download a PDF version of the programme here.

This programme is being updated and subject to change.

Museums, Cities, Cultural Power takes place on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 June 2021 in partnership with Brunel University London, the Museum of London, and UCL Urban Laboratory. Supported with public funding by Arts Council England.  Part of London Festival of Architecture 2021.