Museums and the Exercise of Human Rights

36 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2020

Date Written: September 30, 2010


On 7 December 2008, to mark the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, artist Monica Ross recited its lengthy Preamble and all its thirty Articles from memory. Her performance took place in the British Library as part of its exhibition Taking Liberties: the Struggle for Britain’s Freedoms and Rights ( accessed 25.6.10). Ross developed the work, entitled Acts of Memory, in response to the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in Stockwell tube station in 2005. Following Taking Liberties, she has undertaken the recitation many times in a number of public spaces, including museums, galleries, universities and libraries. For each performance she memorises the entire Universal Declaration of Human Rights by writing it out over and over, repeating it over and over, ensuring that its words can be enacted by her and its ideas audible through her. This process is one of embodiment. As well as solo recitations, Ross works with groups to create collective performances in multiple languages wherein participants are encouraged to remember rather than read the articles that may be meaningful to them and thereby embodying the Declaration’s principles ( accessed 25.6.10).

Keywords: Museums, Human Rights

Suggested Citation

Purbrick, Louise, Museums and the Exercise of Human Rights (September 30, 2010). Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 10-17, Available at SSRN: or

Louise Purbrick (Contact Author)

University of Brighton ( email )

Mithras House
Lewes Road
Brighton BN2 4AT
United Kingdom

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