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Response to Review of Museums and Biographies: Stories, Objects, Identities

I would like to thank Graham Black for his detailed and useful review of Museums and Biographies. It is not an easy task to summarise and evaluate all 21 chapters, but he has done justice to the widely varying topics and approaches of the authors. While we have certainly sought to engage with the debates in current museum practice, we would not want the collection to be seen solely in that light – it is intended to help us think more widely about the nature of biography and narrative, as well as about the historical consciousness of different periods, places and individuals. In terms of current museum practice, I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewer that transparency is a key issue; for me, the process of editing the collection convinced me that transparency is very hard for museums to achieve. The complicated histories of the institutions, and the entrenched nature of their existing narratives, mean that real, meaningful transparency that allows ownership by the public can only be achieved through a painstaking, historically informed process of unpicking and de-naturalising the museum’s constituent parts. I hope that Museums and Biographies is a contribution to that process.