John Hewitt’s ‘mental blush’: Race and racism in the Belfast Museum

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This paper is an analysis of race and racism in our museums, exploring the topic historically and using the example to inform contemporary debates. The paper considers a display case on the biological interpretation of evolution in the Belfast Museum in 1930s. It considers what is revealed by letters objecting to interpreting biological evolution in the museum space, and compares that to art curator and poet John Hewitt's epiphany when looking at the case with his Chinese friend Shelley Wang. In this moment, after 7 years of working in the museum, he became aware of the racist interpretation of living peoples. Given the instances of contemporary racism, we must use the methods of activist curating to address racism today.
Period8 Apr 2022
Event titleIreland, Museums, Empire, Colonialism
Event typeConference
LocationBelfastShow on map


  • Race
  • Racism
  • Museums
  • Hewitt