Meet the Nottingham born author and broadcaster working to ‘diversify’ British museums
A Nottingham historian and author has spoken out about what needs to change in the UK so others have an understanding of black history.
Norma Gregory, 52, grew up in Mapperley and despite travelling all over, she still lives in the city.
A former teacher herself, Ms Gregory spoke out about the need to diversify the curriculum.
“Exam boards need to move away from the traditional kings and queens.
“We need to know about world wars but that’s not all our history is based on, it should be based around multiculturalism and what we’ve done in our past to help the present and the future.
“The curriculum needs to be redrafted. It can be very destructive to young people’s minds if they only know the more negative aspects of history. Every student should be able to engage and understand their own history, and be able to understand words like ‘migration.’
“History shouldn’t be limited to white British students and that’s how it sometimes seems.”
Ms Gregory has published books and now also works as a consultant to help diversify British museums. In 2015, she published ‘Jamaicans in Nottingham’.
Speaking about inspiration behind the book, she says she wanted to showcase the fantastic work that “key pioneers” in Nottingham had done.
The Nottingham race riots of 1958 and 1981 are featured, as is the development of the ACNA centre in St Anns, the miners’ strike and Nottingham Carnival.
“The book was really just to capture key pioneers in Nottingham who have done great work and their life story wasn’t mentioned anywhere, there was very few mentions of key people who had done significant work in the city,” she explained.
“I just kept interviewing people, asking them about their experiences and it just grew and grew.
“I did try and go with other major publishers but I didn’t get a response from many of them. But Hansib [a publishing company], wanted to make sure it was published and I’m glad because the publisher has good, strong relationships with countries abroad and I’m still in contact with them to this day.”
“[The book] has done really well, it’s gone far and wide, it’s done better than I expected. Writers from across the country were praising it, it helped to inspire other writers. I’ve had writers across the country contact me, telling me that they’re going to do the same thing.
“The book will always be relevant, it’s a part of history and Nottingham’s history.”
A big part of the work Ms Gregory is doing now is around the diversification of museums and she told Nottinghamshire Live that she is seeing a positive change:
“ I work a lot in the heritage sector and the museum sector working a lot with museums to help them diversify their collections, looking at the kind of things they’ve got in their museum that reflect different communities.
“So many museums are changing the way they’re presenting their narratives and it’s an important thing that many institutions are doing and I hope it’s a long term thing.”
Currently, Ms Gregory is working with the Anastasia Museum in London and has done a lot of work at the mining museum in Newcastle, helping them to understand their communities past and present, especially people of African and Caribbean descent.
Ms Gregory spoke about the positive changes she’s seeing in society that will benefit all types of people:
“I’ve seen opportunity, we all have a chance to pursue the careers that we want to pursue.
“I’m living my dream, which is educating. Creating art, exhibitions and sharing knowledge. We’re in an age now where black people can be directors, we shouldn’t be put off or set back by history.
“And for me, being able to go to museums and change museums is something I never thought would happen, museums can be very static institutions and don’t change very often but they are going through change and change for the better.”