WORDS MATTERS helps you make informed choices in language

Through this publication, the four national museums of world cultures are furthering the dialogue regarding the use of words in the museum world, and are joining in with the social debate on whether certain words have become obsolete.

The publication highlights the notion that the description of an object can sometimes carry as much meaning as the object itself. This can help us better understand why a word that has no particular connotations for one person may touch a nerve in another. WORDS MATTER offers insight and alternatives.

Informed choices

Museums ask questions about the use of certain terminology. Which words do we use and which do we avoid our museum texts, and in what context? How do we go about registering our collection, and is our use of words still acceptable these days? The publication is intended to provide a greater understanding of the political and social significance of certain words used in museums. Readers, and especially museum staff, can use this information when writing texts and documenting objects. The publication can also provide support to departments such as Education, Marketing and Programming. Its purpose is to enable readers to make more informed choices about the words they use. NMVW Director Stijn Schoonderwoerd: ‘Our objects are timeless, but the way we talk and write about them is not. The use of words reflects the era in which they are used.’

Work in progress

The glossary is not intended to be exhaustive. No doubt some words will be missing. This publication is therefore a work in progress, an interim measure. It can serve as a basis for further discussion and as an invitation to others to contribute to its continued development.

To find out more, visit the Tropenmuseum website.