June 19, 2023
Lisbon, Casa Fernando Pessoa, 6pm WEST | 7pm CEST
Free entry
The conversation will be held in English and will be livestreamed (if you want to follow it online, sign up here)

The Manchester Museum reopened to the public in February this year. Our contact, however, began a few years earlier, when the museum, with the help of the Common Cause Foundation, decided to re-think itself in terms of its values (see the publication Values for Stronger Communities). This is not common among museums, at least not in such a public and conscious way.

It was this preparatory work that also informed the museum’s repositioning strategy, developed during the years it was closed to the public. In an interview in 2021, director Esme Ward stated that they aspired to be the museum that the city of Manchester needed. She also spoke about the philosophy of care, “which means not just how museums care about collections, but, increasingly, how they care about people and their ideas, how they care for relationships and essentially how they can expand their commitment to care”

Earlier that same year (2021), Njabulo Chpangura assumed the position of Curator of Living Cultures. Something that made sense in a museum that wanted to place people – and specifically the large community of Southeast Asian origin that lives in the city of Machester – and their cultures at the center of its attention.

It is with this debate that we begin the 2023 Access Culture Week. We will meet physically at Casa Fernando Pessoa in Lisbon and Esme and Njabulo will join us online. Environmental sustainability is one of the causes that the Manchester Museum embraces, so our colleagues only undertake the trips that are absolutely necessary.


Esme Ward is Director of Manchester Museum, at the University of Manchester. Over the last 5 years, Esme has led the ambitious hello future transformation of Manchester Museum, completed in February 2023, into a larger more extraordinary place to visit.  Her commitment is to renew its creative and civic mission, to bring more joy, inspiration and care to the communities it serves.  Esme has worked in university museums for over 20 years; she was Head of Learning and Engagement across the Whitworth and Manchester Museum embedding award-winning health and culture, early years and age friendly work.  Esme is Honorary Professor of Heritage Futures at the University of Manchester; she is Co-chair of the University Museums Group; Co-Chair of the National Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance; she represents university museums on the National Museum’s Directors’ Executive Council and is Environmental Sustainability Lead for Manchester Cultural Leaders Group. Esme leads cross-sector collaboration with citizens and communities across the city to shape the museum they most need, with a mission to build understanding between cultures and a more sustainable world.

Njabulo Chipangura has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the Curator of Living Culture at Manchester Museum. As a curator of Living Cultures, he is responsible for the care of more than 25,000 objects from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, as well as building new research and forming relationships and collaborations. A key curatorial responsibility on this role is giving these collections a biography through carrying out comprehensive provenance research. His research focus is on understanding empirical ways by which the museum practice can be decolonised through epistemic and aesthetic disobedience by undoing earlier ways of knowledge production in collections and exhibition practices. At the centre of his work is a concern with pragmatics of decolonising the museum through co-production , co-curatorship and collaborating with source and or diaspora communities in reconfiguring and re-writing stories of objects within their secular or ceremonial uses prior to their dispossession.