In Episode 14, I speak to Dan Vo, Founder of the award-winning LGBTQ+ volunteer-led tours at the V&A and he has since developed similar programmes for the University of Cambridge Museums and Amgueddfa Cymru: National Museum Wales. Dan is also the Project Manager & lead researcher for the Queer Heritage and Collections Network supported by the Art Fund to establish a UK-wide Queer Heritage and Collections Network to provide training, networking and peer support to people working with LGBTQ+ collections and histories.
The core ethos of the tours Dan develops is community: they are community created and community led, for the community. We talk about the value of community building through volunteer-led tours and Dan’s infotainment approach which ensures his content is rigorously fact-checked but also fun. An integral part of the intensive research that goes into the development of tours is exploring museum databases. Dan explains how tagging the maker and object in museum databases enables them to become part of the stories he and other guides share with the public. An unexpected bonus of all his work finding and telling LGBTQ+ narratives is the historical gaydar Dan has developed: he can spot an object linked with Queer history a mile off!
For Dan, decolonising is about conveying nuance through stories. It starts with representation and is enhanced through co-curation, by getting people in to tell different facets of a particular story. He explains that it is important to him that the spotlight is moved from singular narratives to multiple narratives that can be held with equal weight. Dan talks about recognising the circumstances that led to the creation of an object, as well as its movement and recontextualisation and, therefore, the changing ways of seeing and understanding it.
For me, one of the key points in this episode is that everybody has the opportunity to make change. At the centre of Dan’s approach in making change is story-telling. The best stories are the ones that get people listening, get people engaged and involved. Stories are always at the heart and that always comes back to the people who are included in these stories. Greater understanding enhances the storytelling.
You can follow Dan on Twitter & Instagram @DanNouveau
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This episode was Presented/Produced by Sushma Jansari (@TheWonderHouse) and Produced/Edited by Nick Harris (@2ndThoughtTank).