Cultural sensitivity warning examples

One of the primary responsibilities of museums is to cater for the varied needs of visitors. For this reason museums are advised to include a cultural sensitivity warning near the entrance to the museum, or as part of the advice provided to users of museum archives.

Images

Many museums include photographs of Indigenous people within their displays or stored in hard copy or digital format. For this reason museums and libraries have a cultural sensitivity warning to alert Indigenous visitors and researchers to the fact that the collection includes images of Indigenous people who may be deceased. By doing so, the museum avoids causing offence to Indigenous people who find it distressing to view images of deceased persons. The wording of this warning can be quite simple such as

Please note that images of deceased Indigenous people are contained within this exhibit [or within this collection]

Voices

It may also be the case that your museum, mentions the names of Indigenous people or uses oral history or video footage which includes the voices of people now deceased. If this is the case the cultural sensitivity warning needs to be more broadly stated. For example, the ABC/Indigenous website includes the following warning which covers sound and images:

Advice: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this website may contain images and voices of people who have died[1]

Other media

The websites of State Records of South Australia[2] and The South Australian Museum[3] include a section headed ‘Cultural Sensitivity Warning’ and each cover a broader range of possible sensitivities, including the provision of information about, and/or images of a sacred or spiritual nature. They also make reference to the fact that documents written in the past may use words and descriptions when referring to Indigenous people which would be considered inappropriate today. When developing displays, it is important to consider the language used as well as the images, and whether it might cause offence.

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