Diversity and Inclusion in Museums During COVID-19 and Beyond

April 30, 2020

Some of the considerations museum professionals are discussing is diversity and inclusion, and how we keep progression moving forward during and after the pandemic. I participated in an American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) webinar discussing diversity and inclusion. The webinar was AASLH Conversations: Inclusivity During COVID-19, and Beyond that was presented by speakers Marian Carpenter, Omar Eaton-Martinez, and Richard Josey. Carpenter, Eaton-Martinez, and Josey are members of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and they led a discussion about approaches to ensure that inclusion continues to remain a business imperative. I decided to participate because even though this is a topic that I have discussed and participated in professional development on this topic previously I believe all museum professionals including myself should be open to learning more about how to be inclusive in the museum field. Also, I decided to participate in this webinar because I believe it is important for the museum field as a whole to continue to engage more with the community by getting to know who the community is and having more diverse people involved in the museum.

To make clear for this blog post, diversity is the acknowledgement that every human being is unique while inclusion is the identified, accepted, and chosen behaviors we exhibit every time we encounter another human being. It is also important to note that we do not have all of the answers and that not one answer fits all museums. There are going to be steps that may not be helpful depending on the size of the institutions but figuring out how to continue to incorporate diversity and inclusion should always be the goal when museums make connections within the community. Museum staff should have the discussion about whose voices are missing from their institutions and how we can do better to have a diverse and inclusive community within the museum. This webinar provided questions to start the conversation on diversity and inclusion among museum staff.

The important questions that were discussed in the webinar and were asked to ask our colleagues in the museums we work with are:

  1. Why do you want to initiate or activate a diversity and inclusion lens?
  2. Are your spaces encouraging staff to be brave and representative of the diversity of your community?
  3. Are leaders and staff modeling the behaviors of an inclusive organization?
  4. What strategies, frameworks, and tools are in place to be intentional about improving inclusivity?

Museum professionals should remember that there is always room to grow, and that any diversity and inclusion plan has to be seen as a living document. If we think the plan is officially completed, then we close ourselves from They pointed out that it is also important to touch base with other organizations that are reaching out to similar audiences, and have the discussion to reach out to people especially to those with limited technology access; one example of reaching out to those with limited technology access is using the radio station to get information about the museum to a wider audience.

We are going through tough times right now, and now more than ever museum professionals should make sure we connect with one another to help our communities. If we are not paying attention to who is in our community, then we are not doing our jobs effectively. Therefore, we should not forget to address how we need to proceed with making our museums more diverse and inclusive.

To learn more about the AASLH Conversations series, including find a recording of this webinar, visit the link: https://learn.aaslh.org/covid19response

Below are links to relevant blog posts I previously wrote on diversity and inclusion:

Equity and Inclusion in Museums

EdComVersation: Developing a Strategy for Inclusion and Diversity

Why the Conversation about Gender and Museums Matter?

Museums Prove that Education is for Everyone

Gender Equity in Museums: An Important Issue that Should Be Addressed

EdComversations and Journal of Museum Education: Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion

Moving Towards an Equitable Museum Workforce: Reaction to Salary Doc

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 20, 2020

As a way to observe the holiday, I am honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by taking a moment out of my day to remember his work for racial equality and the dream he shared with the country. This past weekend I have come across some resources that help educate children about his legacy, and the lessons that we all can take away from his work and legacy are still relevant today.

The following are links to resources to help educate and share the significance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day:

https://www.education.com/resources/martin-luther-king-jr-day/

https://www.education.com/blog/whats-new/5-ways-families-can-honor-martin-luther-king-jr-and-his-legacy/

https://sharemylesson.com/collections/martin-luther-king-lesson-plans

https://sharemylesson.com/blog/kindred-spirits-beyond-dream-mlk-classroom

One of my previous blog posts addressed race, dialogue, and inclusion discussed in an online conversation with other museum education professionals, and how we should continue to strive to improve how we connect with all visitors. I included the link to the post here: https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2017/06/16/edcomversations-and-journal-of-museum-education-race-dialogue-and-inclusion/

What are important lessons do you believe we should take away from Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy?

Reflections on the NYCMER 2017 Conference

Originally posted on Medium, May 25, 2017.

On Monday, I went to New York City to participate in the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Conference located this year at the School of Visual Arts. This is my second NYCMER conference I have attended since coming to New York, and both times I enjoyed the learning experience each one offered. Last year I attended with a team and this year I attended on my own. This year’s theme was “Inclusivity: From Within and Beyond” which discusses inclusion and diversity in the museum education field in New York. As with each conference I have previously attended, it was very hard to pick which sessions to attend and I wish I would be able to multiple myself to attend each session offered. The total amount of sessions presented at NYCMER was about 27 sessions, and that does not include the poster session and peer group meet & greet over treats sessions. In this post, I will go into some depth of my experience the second time around providing the highlights of the day, and my experience participating in networking events.

In the morning, I traveled to the train station to take the train into New York City for the conference. Once I arrived at the School of Visual Arts, I checked in, received the schedule, wrote out my name tag, and attended the Keynote Session. The Keynote Session is a session that announces NYCMER business and introduces the conference’s theme. Also, the Keynote also included a discussion about this year’s conference theme with speakers Amy Bartow-Melia (the MacMillan Associate Director for Audience Engagement at the National Museum of American History), Laura Huerta Migus (the Executive Director at the Association of Children’s Museums), and moderator Esther Jeong (Global Tech Diversity Business Partner at Google). The discussion and speeches talked about building a diverse museum workforce where the realities of museology were discussed and the case study of the American History Museum on how the museum developed exhibits and programs that defined what it means to be an American. After the Keynote Session, I attended the first session in one of the School of Visual Arts buildings.

Rainy Train Ride into the City

My name tag from the NYCMER conference

The session I attended was called “Designing Professional Development Experiences which Increase Inclusive, Visitor-centered Teaching”. I enjoyed this session especially because it started with a brainstorming game for how we learn as learners; those include but not limited to retention, visual guides, experiential learning, auditory reflection, and team building. The presenters from the Guggenheim Museum presented examples of ways to create opportunities for educators to learn from their audience or community, and presenters from the Children’s Museum of the Arts based their professional developments on grant goals and the museum’s goals to identify internal best practices with consultants, design sustainable peer to peer learning structure, change practices and institutional approaches, identify tools that benefit all children and empower all staff. After that conference, I met with peers to go have lunch and we traveled the area to find out where to have lunch; we also stopped to admire puppies as we looked at places to eat.

Puppies I saw while looking for a place to eat for lunch

Once we had lunch, I went to the Poster Session which is where professionals give informal presentations on aspects in the museum education field. For instance, one of the posters I saw was for the Guerilla Haiku Movement which presents the argument that poetry can be used to engage new audiences. There is also an activity which challenges participants to create a haiku with 17 syllables about what we learned at the conference so far and our perspectives on museums. I had created one that had one less syllable which states: “Museums provide a learning environment for all learners.” All learners are, by definition, inclusive and it is important that every person who visits museums can learn what they have to offer.

Guerilla Haiku Movement Poster, Poster Session

Haiku I created during Poster Session

The third session I attended after seeing the posters and networking with colleagues was Resource Workshop: Designing Accessible Materials. This workshop was divided into a few sections where each presenter shared their experiences and handed out resources for participants’ references. Then the fourth and last session I attended was The Challenges of Confronting Difficult Content. In this session, the presenters from the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum discussed the school programs they developed and explained how their lessons approached difficult content. This session was interesting since these programs provided a way for students from third grade to seniors to express their thoughts on the events through art and discussion. The takeaways from the session are to address the common question: How to translate difficult content in ways that allow all visitors to correct with sensitive subject matter? And the second takeaway was as a differentiated and inclusive practice, strategy transcends content by incorporating storytelling and historical contents and current resonances/present day connections. Once the session ended, I attended the concluding reception at the Revel Restaurant.

The Revel Restaurant provided a place for NYCMER participants to network and unwind after a long day of attending sessions. The closing reception was a cocktail hour and hors d’oeuvres event where I could meet more museum professionals. I enjoyed meeting everyone who I made valuable connections with both during the sessions and the concluding reception. The conference experience I have had in the past has always made me feel inspired and fulfilled in gaining knowledge and making meaningful connections, and this conference is no exception. I have enjoyed the NYCMER conference, both last year’s and this year’s, and I look forward to the next one.

What are your favorite parts of a conference or conferences you have attended? Is there a session that made you reflect on your own experiences as a museum professional (or professional of your chosen field)?

Reaction to Article: Museums transition from institutions of elite to places that “promote humanity”

Originally posted on Medium, May 18, 2017.

Especially in honor of International Museums Day, I wrote this blog post about museums progress towards inclusion and diversity. I came across an article posted on the St. Louis Public Radio website called “How are museums changing from institutions of the elite to places that ‘promote humanity?’” written by Kelly Moffitt, who is an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio’s talk shows St. Louis on the Air. Moffitt discusses about the radio show host Don Marsh’s interview with Sarah Sims, the Director of K-12 Education Programs at the Missouri History Museum, and Nicole Ivy, the Director of Inclusion for the American Alliance of Museums on the topic about promoting humanity and last week’s Annual Conference and Meeting in St. Louis.

In the beginning of the article, Moffitt stated a memory Sims had about visitors in museums. Sims stated that she remembers a trip she took her students to a local museum; one of the students came up to her during the visit and said to her how special the trip was, and when Sims asked why the student said, “this is a mansion and this is the only time I get to come here.” Sims mentioned how much this broke her heart since the museum they went to and many museums are free, and that museums should be places for everyone.

This story also broke my heart since it is not right that there are people who do not feel they are able to go to museums. Museums should be accessible to people who want to learn and make people feel welcome to attend. Museum professionals are working on making their organizations more accessible and inclusive, as evidenced especially in my previous blog posts on this subject.

The interview continued when Ivy described a brief history of how museums were viewed and run. According to the article, Ivy stated the history of the American museum is linked to elitism; museums started with the cabinet of curiosity and a real focus on exclusion. Her reference to the cabinet of curiosity reminded me of my own experience with a version of a cabinet of curiosity. While I was at Connecticut’s Old State House completing my internship, I was fortunate enough to see its own version of a cabinet of curiosities.

Inside one of the rooms of Connecticut’s Old State House, there was a small museum called Steward’s Museum of Curiosities. The Connecticut General Assembly allowed Reverend Joseph Steward to occupy space in the Old State House in 1796 to use it as a portrait studio. A year after opening the portrait studio, Reverend Steward established a curiosity room on the third floor featuring all sorts of wonders and treasures, including animals such as a two-headed calf, from around the world. The Museum of Curiosities was reproduced and moved to the second floor where other items are also displayed including Steward’s portraits. The purpose of this museum was to educate individuals of nature and animals they were not normally exposed to.

When I took both school groups and visitors through this Museum of Curiosities, there was a mixed reaction to the items in the room. As I described the history behind this museum, some individuals were impressed with the items in the room. Some were not impressed with the animals but were interested in the portraits Steward painted. This experience taught me that many people will have different reactions to curiosities. Also, the experience showed how individuals’ educational experiences have changed since the cabinet of curiosities were set up.

Museums have over time changed to become more responsive and more inclusive. This fact has been reiterated by Ivy during the interview and other museum professionals have worked to have their organizations create programs and exhibits more responsive and more inclusive. Ivy pointed out that a key to increasing diversity and inclusion would mean opening the doors of the museum to people who are really hurting; I agree that it is a key to increasing diversity and inclusion because everyone should be able to have a space to express their thoughts and museums can create relationships with the community to be able to serve society better.

To read the original article, see the post here: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/how-are-museums-changing-institutions-elite-places-promote-humanity#stream/0

What do you think of this article? Do you think we are making good progress so far in diversity and inclusion?

EdComVersation: Developing a Strategy for Inclusion and Diversity

Originally posted on Medium, April 27, 2017. 

During the months of April and March, there has been a lot of discussion about inclusion, equity, and diversity. First, there was discussion about equity and inclusion in museums (https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/equity-and-inclusion-in-museums-9abf113c861b). Second, there was the blog post on EdComVersation discussion about the Journal of Museum Education edition on Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion (https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/edcomversations-and-journal-of-museum-education-race-dialogue-and-inclusion-1a6bdc61ebb5). Third, there was discussion about gender equity in museums(https://medium.com/@steward.lindsey/gender-equity-in-museums-an-important-issue-that-should-be-addressed-723341320b03).

To continue the discussion on inclusivity and diversity, I recently participated in this month’s EdComVersation about developing a strategy for inclusion and diversity. One of the two panelists for this webinar was Dina Bailey, the CEO of Mountaintop Vision, a consulting firm that focuses on working with organizations in change management and strategic initiatives in to embrace diversity and inclusion in communities. The second panelist was Chris Taylor, the Chief Inclusion Officer at the Minnesota Historical Society which preserves Minnesota’s past, shares the state’s stories and connects people with history. By participating in this program, I found the resources very helpful and informative since after learning more about inclusion, equity, and diversity I can continue my understanding of these topics by learning how to implement inclusion and diversity.

This month’s webinar’s format included questions from Sheri Levisky-Raskin, who moderated the discussion, and from participants in the webinar. Bailey and Taylor shared their answers to questions posted and their insights on creating strategies for inclusion and diversity. To begin the discussion, they shared their definition of inclusion and definition. According to Bailey, diversity is having different types of people in one space or program and inclusion is the action of coming together to do something. To add to these definitions, Taylor added that diversity is the intended outcome for an organization while inclusion is the process of how we get there and how we make decisions. Both Bailey and Taylor pointed out that in general people have used the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” interchangeably without realizing this; while these terms refer to the same subject both terms are different. The discussion continued with the difference between Strategy and strategy when developing a strategy for inclusion and diversity.

While defining inclusion and diversity, Taylor also brought up the point that while we are looking at the definitions of these terms we should also look at the definition of strategy. He stated that there is a difference between Strategy and strategy. Strategy with a capital “s” is the strategic planning with the question of what are the outcomes in mind; meanwhile, strategy with a lowercase “s” raises the question of what can you do within your team, and figure out how to do the day to day activities.

Bailey and Taylor answer the question of what can you do to come up with an inclusion plan towards diversity. They stated that it is better to either define diversity and inclusion for the organizational culture or to keep the definitions broad and genetic. Taylor reiterated this answer by pointing out inclusion comes from us and the organizational culture should contain one of the most important things to bring the work internally. Also, Bailey revealed that it is important to make it personal since it is difficult to maintain goals when terms are defined broadly.

The discussion continued by allowing participants to ask themselves where do inclusion and diversity sit in your institutions and gave additional advice on how to start integrating inclusion and diversity in the institutions. Bailey and Taylor stated that diversity must be a part of what you do and by having someone responsible for inclusion there would be someone to evaluate and implement written documents to support diversity in the institution. Other advice both gave are to include leadership in the process and volunteer to do stuff if higher levels do not have time to work on since it shows that you think it is important as well as passionate about diversity; find someone you trust to collaborate with; and use the resources available, and there are plenty, for inclusion and diversity.

Both Bailey and Taylor explained it is alright to have a small group of staff to start with on these discussions and to start on small projects. There are ways to start without spending a lot including getting to know who you are as a staff and institution to allow themselves to become more aware of our own stereotypes, prejudices, etc. then the understanding of oneself gets better. Other ways to start is to share the resources such as books, websites, and webinars by forming small gatherings such as book clubs. They also suggest that articles can also be shared in the lunchroom weekly, send email informing the rest of the staff resources are available in the room, and at the end of the month offer to discuss it if they have read them.

I leave it here to ask you these questions: Has your staff worked on an inclusion plan towards diversity within your institutions? What methods have you worked on to raise awareness on inclusion and diversity?

 

EdComversations and Journal of Museum Education: Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion

Originally posted on Medium, March 16, 2017.

I recently read Museum Education Roundtable’s publication Journal of Museum Education, and the topic is Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion. Today I participated in this week’s EdComversation on this edition of the Journal of Museum Education. The moderator was Sheri Levinsky-Raskin who is the Assistant Vice President, Education & Evaluation at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The panelists were Lanae Spruce who is the Manager of Social Media & Digital Engagement at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Anna Forgerson Hindley who is the Supervisory Early Childhood Education Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; and Amanda Thompson Rundahl who is the Director of Learning and Engagement at the Saint Louis Art Museum and the vice president at the Museum Education Roundtable. I will discuss what I have read in the Journal and then I will discuss additional findings conversed in this month’s EdComversation.

Last week I started to talk about this month’s Journal and how each edition lays out each article and case study written for that month. I decided to continue the discussion about this month’s Journal this week since I am participating in this program that is a main about this month’s Journal.

In this edition, the editorial by Cynthia Robinson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Museum Education, discussed how the new National African American Museum of History and Culture is a powerful and timely symbol of hope. Also, Robinson discussed how the large draw of visitors to the new museum testifies the need for such a museum. She pointed out also that talking about race, race relations, and racism has always been difficult for many people, and the education department’s ability to open and sustain conversations across races is a critically important contribution to our society. She introduces the articles by acknowledging the hard work that went into writing the articles, and by explaining how these authors experiences provide information for other museums to adapt the ideas and approaches in their own programming.

For instance, Anna Forgerson Hindley (Early Childhood Education Coordinator, National Museum of African American History and Culture) and Julie Olsen Edwards’(co-author of Anti-bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, NAEYC, 2010) article “Early Childhood Racial Identity-The Potential Powerful Role for Museum Programming” examined how the National African American museum of History and Culture approach conversations on race with young children and their families as well as teachers through a couple of programs. One was an Early Childhood Education Initiative program with young children and their families, and another was a series of Let’s Talk! Dialogue on Race workshops for teachers; both programs were developed based on research on the current understanding of the development of race identity and race between birth and age eight. The education specialists use the museum’s collection and content as concrete starting point to discuss abstract concepts (i.e. race and identity), and create staff development programs that also include focus on young children and the approaches to supporting self-care to enable long-term effectiveness in addressing the emotions charged and combative issues of race and racism.

Today’s American Alliance of Museums webinar, Race, Dialogue, and Inclusion, included discussions about two articles in the Journal. The two articles, given to participants before the program began, were “Race Isn’t Just a ‘Black Thing’-The Role that Museum Professionals Can Play in Inclusive Planning and Programming” and “Social Media for Social Justice”. “Race Isn’t Just a ‘Black Thing’” was written by guest editors Esther J. Washington (Director of Education, National Museum of African American History and Culture) and Anna Forgerson Hindley (Early Childhood Education Coordinator, National Museum of African American History and Culture and one of today’s panelists).

Washington and Hindley explained in their article that while the museum was planned for ten years the staff had sensed that this rich historical and cultural content, the educational programming developed around this content, and the museum structure itself, with its prominent placement on the National Mall, would quell a desire for a long-awaited inclusiveness. They gave details about what the ten-year process of creating the museum was like, and brief information about each article in this month’s Journal. Also, Washington and Hindley expressed their hopes the examples we provide inspire brave conversations across all museums and cultural institutions. They pointed out that the issues of race will be with us for a time to come and these are subtle and nuanced and often difficult to broach; but with some effort, museums can, do and should play an important role in inclusion and by doing so, the field will be made better.

“Social Media for Social Justice” was written by Lanae Spruce (Digital Engagement Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; another one of today’s panelists) and Kaitlyn Leaf (Digital Learning Specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture). Spruce and Leaf explained that the museum is tasked with stimulating a national dialogue on race and helping to foster a spirit of reconciliation and healing, and it directly impacts social media practice and how we engage with digital audiences since it helps them reach new audiences, highlight relevant museum collections, create participatory experiences, and confront issues of race and social justice. Also, they discuss a way that describes this museum’s use of collections, programming, and storytelling to uplift marginalized voices in the digital sphere.

In addition to discussing the articles, the panelists answered various questions posted by Sheri Levinsky-Raskin and participants in the program. For instance, the panelists shared their responses to how should museums be catalysts of social change. Hindley discussed that it is disturbing that part of the American culture is to forget what had happened in our past. She also pointed out that African American history is American history. I agree with this statement because we are a country filled of people with various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We should celebrate this fact, and we should be able to include all aspects of our nation’s history.

Another question that was brought to the panelists attention was how do we define inclusion and social justice. Spruce defined inclusion as making people a part of the institution and making sure people are comfortable in the space created. Hindley also stressed the importance of creating a collaborative space for visitors and staff to feel safe in and express different viewpoints and be respected. These points are significant in our museum field because without that comfort we cannot effectively participate in our communities. The more we look at our museums’ historic narratives and missions the more we will be able to find ways to connect with our visitors and create opportunities that will be inclusive for all visitors.

To answer the question on the definition of social justice, the panelists pointed out that museums need to make sure there is equity as well as come up with ideas to train staff and engage with all visitors. One important tip that Hindley shared was to take time on yourself and recognize pieces of your life that brought you to this point in life. I think that is a significant point because we need to recognize that we all have bias, and we need to learn more about ourselves before we can be able to learn about everyone else in our communities. Spruce also stated that it is also important to use partnerships with outside organizations as resources.

The tips on how to tell inclusive stories in institutions include be open to criticism as well as listen to what criticisms there are to adapt programming to be more inclusive. Another tip was to change speaking orders in meetings and set up meetings with diverse members. The most important tip I took away from the program was to listen. For instance, museums should participate in Museums Respond to Ferguson, Museum Workers Speak, read and do research, and look at social media feeds from other organizations that discuss inclusion and equity. After reading these articles, participating in programs such as the NYCMER program last week and AAM’s webinar this week, I hope to find ways to create ways to help the museum community be more inclusive in our society.

How is your institution finding ways to reach out to visitors that may have felt excluded? Did you read this month’s Journal of Museum Education? What was your reactions to the articles?