Written by Chantal Umuhoza, Curator, Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (ITP Fellow 2018)

Being part of the ITP is something I always cherish and enjoy at every moment; even in difficult times it has continuously provided opportunities for learning and building new relationships. I was very excited when I received an email from ITP that my application was successful. It was my first time to join an important meeting in the museum sector, I was keen to see how it goes and Museums Association (MA) Conference 2021 went beyond my expectations.

The programme was very well structured with very interesting sessions in a way that selecting which session I had to attend was somehow difficult, but the good thing is that we had a chance of watching recorded sessions. I was very impressed how the platform gave the chance for connecting with other attendees. Initially, I had troubles joining but the ITP team, as always, they were there to help.

I really liked how we were sharing our views and emotions about the speakers and their sessions. Even though I’ve never met Alsu Akhmetzyanova (ITP Fellow 2019, Uzbekistan), I felt like I have known her for years. She was very enthusiastic and active during the sessions.

Since 2019, my institution started a 10-year project of decolonising one of our museums “Ethnographic Museum. A first museum in Rwanda opened in 1989 as a gift of King- Baudouin from Belgium”. So, I was amazed by the speakers’ perspective about decolonisation and restitution in museums, topics I think that are interrelated.  I was overwhelmed by the panel that shared their thoughts about the Decolonising Guidance book Supporting Decolonisation in Museums, that decolonisation is not just a way to make people uncomfortable, that it’s about bringing richer narratives not about loss but about gain. I also learnt that decolonisation is a combined effort, that should be embedded in day to day museum practices, not having only one person dedicated to it.

The session about Collections With Feelings made me think about what we collect and for who? Sometimes we ignore the emotions attached to the objects we collect and the impact it could have to our audience.  By questioning how we can bring to life our collections by collaborating with our audiences to create more emotional and relatable collections. The speakers helped us to understand how curating more human narratives can help to improve health and wellbeing and provide inspiration and hope for the future, I wish I could visit someday the Museum of Broken Relationships.

Back in 2018 when I was attending the British Museum’s International Training Programme, I spent 10 days at National Museums Northern Ireland, I was happy to hear again from Hannah Crowdy sharing her thoughts and experience on Curating Conflict. This reminded me their Troubles Gallery and the ethics behind the curation of it. I don’t know how they managed to do it, but I can say that MA is the best at selecting the speakers.

The first day was pretty cool but the second day was awesome. Starting the day with Kevin Young’s (Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture) and Malik Al Nasir’s (Author, poet and filmmaker) presentation made my day. I was really touched by Malik’s testimony,

I realised that we as museum professional have a big responsibility towards our society to make everyone feel valued, liberated and open-minded. We should be there for our community and ready to offer the spaces to help community telling their stories as Péjù Oshin (Curator, Tate) mentioned, and our museums are relevant if our communities are engaged (Ashara Ekundayo, Independent Curator, Cultural, Strategist).

I would like to thank the ITP for giving me this wonderful opportunity to experience best practices in heritage and museum sector, I hope to transform what I learnt into actions.