Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Valuing Diversity

Thinking About Inclusive Museums in the UK, Center for the Future of Museums Blog, 18 August 2016

CaptureHi, Nicole here! As part of my work as a Mellon/ACLS fellow with CFM, I’m focusing on a constellation of issues related to museums and labor, including pathways to museum employment; wage equity in the sector; workforce practices promoting access and inclusion; and employee retention. A recent report of the UK Museums Association connects all of these issues in order to recommend some better practices that its member museums can use to reduce discrimination in the field. Although museums in the UK and the US operate in profoundly different political and economic landscapes—and with vastly different funding structures—I believe the Museums Association’s report has some important resonances with current discussions of diversity and inclusion in the US, including in AAM’s strategic plan. I urge you to take a look at the full report, share it with colleagues, and use it to guide your own thinking about diversity and inclusion in the field.    

Last month, the UK Museums Association released a report examining the landscape of diversity, accessibility, equity, and inclusion in museums across the four nations of United Kingdom. Titled, “Valuing Diversity:The Case for Inclusive Museums,” the paper is part of the Transformers program, an initiative designed to promote innovative thinking among mid-career museum professionals. The piece is the product of a year-long research project exploring internal workforce dynamics. It features responses gathered from surveys of some 80 museum professionals about the state of inclusion in their individual institutions.

There is so much good thinking and persuasive reflection in the report. I especially appreciate how it places recruitment, day-to-day interactions, and audience engagement as part of a larger ecosystem of museum practice. It is tempting to focus our diversity efforts on outreach. But, this approach can reinforce an “us vs. them” binary. As Porchia Moore notes, diversity efforts that propose to bring so-called outsiders into museums can sometimes “send the message that museums are founded upon a dominant culture’s values” alone, without creating a framework for broadening authority in our institutions.

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