Famille noire

Iris Harpman (Cultural Heritage) has received a nomination for Famille Noire. Iris on her graduation research: 'Language can offend and hurt people, even if this is not always the intention. This not only applies to the spoken word, but also the written word can feel like an attack. At places where there is sensitive heritage, the chance is great that a nerve can be touched that you do not want to touch. For my graduation research, I examined how one specific museum – the National Maritime Museum – could create a text for one specific object – the Famille Noire statue – using inclusive language.

This object has a link to the slavery heritage. It not only recalls a painful period in history. It also shows a stereotypical caricature of a black person – one made into a slave – from 1700-1720. The end product of my graduation project consists of two essays that first and foremost offer museums advice in general on writing more inclusively. In addition, the second essay offers specific advice in the case of possibly difficult subjects and sides in relation to the Famille Noire statue in the National Maritime Museum. These essays are not strict scripts that have to be followed by museums. They are points for attention which people, and museum employees in particular, can look out for if they are doubting which steps they should take in order to make a text inclusive through its choice of words. The essays should wake people up to the problems that are currently taking place, as well as providing ideas on how exclusive language can be prevented.’


Fifine Kist, supervising lecturer, Reinwardt Academy: ‘This research is a beautifully specific, relevant and focused argument in which a much larger question is handled: how to deal with sensitive heritage, on the basis of a museum text to be drawn up for a specific artefact as part of new exhibit in the National Maritime Museum. This research consequently makes an important contribution to the current discussion taking place in this field of work.'

Esther van Sutphin, education coordinator National Museum of World Cultures, Museum for Ethnography: ‘In the essay Schrijfproces van een inclusieve tekst (Writing process of an inclusive text), Iris concisely explains the importance of inclusive texts in a museum environment and the kind of thing you should consider when writing an inclusive text. The actions that you can take prior to, during and after the writing process are clearly worded.’

From the jury report of the Graduation Prize: 'With her research into how museums can handle the written word with their collection in an inclusive manner, Iris Harpman has made a relevant and excellent analysis of a highly topical subject. Her research not only shows the sensitivities around one specific case, the Famille Noire statue, but also offers lots of reference points for all museums that have to deal with sensitive issues surrounding heritage in this day and age. This research deserves to be taken to heart by those museums and applied in practice.'

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