Diversifying Museums

15 December 2021
15 December 2021

Diversifying Museums

Diversifying Museums
By Lauren Cross

INTRODUCTION:

The museum field and its literature has been on a path of consistent transformation for quite some time now. While museums have a track record for being cultural repositories that validate the collecting practices of the elite, there is an ongoing movement in the field to diversify the mission of museums and their publics through critical exhibitions and programs. Furthermore, museums have recognized the importance of shifting cultural policy and leadership to reflect the cultural needs of visitors. For example, the Facing Change initiative by the American Alliance of Museums in 2017 and the evolving definition of museums from the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in 2019 centralized the application of diversity, equity, access, and inclusion (DEAI) initiatives made explicit, the reshaping of museum culture in preparation for a future where our communities and ideologies become more and more diverse. The impact of the global pandemic and the American summer of racial reckoning in 2020, seemed to push the speed, relevancy, and urgency of social transformation to the forefront of museum priorities all the while acknowledging its intense growing pains. Now, more than ever museum professionals like me are looking to literature to identify resources that can propose new and sustainable paths forward. They are looking for resources that encourage museums to serve as vehicles for social impact.

An examination of the resources collated from Curator: The Museum Journal’s archives, seems to suggest a set of categories that foreground central theories and methods for bringing about diversity, equity, access, and inclusion in museums. These strategies envision a museum reality that extends beyond its buildings and collections, and shifts the cultures of display from the inside out. Perhaps most importantly are the new strategies proposed for diversifying museums. It is these papers that forefront relevancy to the needs and assessments of a diverse professional workforce that is welcomed to challenge racist practices and cultural bias without retaliation. We find in this literature, scholars reimagining museums as sites for cultural inspiration and work satisfaction that strengthens the pipeline to recruitment and retention for BIPOC museum leaders, staff, and volunteers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren Cross, [email protected] is a museum researcher who specializes in issues of identity, race, and gender in art and culture institutions. Cross is the Program Coordinator & Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Art and Design Studies at the University of North Texas, College of Visual Art and Design

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