AAM 2016 | A Report from the Museums and Race Gathering

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More than 400 people registered for the Gathering in advance; about 300 people participated in activities in the Transformation Lounge and 200 people participated in sessions. The interest from diverse races and ethnicities shows the vital role Museums & Race can play in creating a cross-race platform for honest dialogue.

The best way to understand how closely the Museums & Race Gathering addressed its goals, listed below, is to click on the link to the summarized survey results here. Notes left on Post-its in the Transformation Lounge are also very revealing.

As the first event of this magnitude to occur at a museum conference, the Gathering was an experiment, and it was a significant learning experience for those who participated, planned and facilitated it. The survey results show that participants had positive experiences at sessions and in the Transformation Lounge, and that there was a great turnout for this important topic. There were significant issues with registration, check-in, and with one of the sessions (Session 2: Constructing Spaces for Honest Conversations About Race). A blog post following up on the Gathering, taking responsibility for the issues, was posted on this Website.

Museums & Race is continuing under a new Steering Committee that includes Omar Eaton- Martinez, Joanne Jones-Rizzi, Gina Diaz, and Margaret Kadoyama, with TMG president Darcie Fohrman serving as ex-officio. The Steering Committee is supported by two contract employees: Lanae Spruce, social media coordinator, and Jada Wright-Greene, BaseCamp administrator. TMG is providing their salaries for six months. Several TMG members are involved in future planning but this is no longer a special project of TMG.

The new Steering Committee is currently developing ways to engage all individuals and organizations who want to be involved going forward.

GATHERING GOALS

1. Share the outcomes and vision for the convening with a broader community of supporters in a way that experiments with multiple formats for engagement and open up the process to more people to build the Museums and Race network of action.

2. Catalyze dialogue about race and museums amongst Annual Meeting attendees at varying places in their understandings of racism, oppression and privilege to build capacity to transform the field.

3. Connect with individuals not attending the Annual Meeting but interested in connecting with Museums and Race 2016 and find other means of bridging member and non-members around racial justice in museums.

4. Support the needs and/or interests of participants; whether self-care for POC, safe-space for working toward and discussing anti-oppression goals for museums, or the responsibilities and roles for white folks in dismantling racism and oppression.

BACKGROUND:

The Museums & Race 2016 Gathering at AAM was one initiative of the Museums & Race Convening held in Chicago in January 2016. The Gathering offered AAM Annual Meeting attendees and those not registered for the meeting a friendly and welcoming environment where participants engaged in dialogue about race and museums and found a safe space to recharge and engage in self-reflection.

The Gathering tackled difficult topics with the goal to support those working in museums to understand their role in dismantling racism as it manifests in hiring policies, institutional language, collections, exhibitions strategies, external community relationships and workplace culture.

Museums & Race acknowledges that individuals come to these conversations with different sets of experiences and we responded to this by making space at the Gathering to address intersectionality, white privilege, and self-care for People of Color.

WHO WAS THIS FOR?

The intended audience for the Gathering was both white people and people of color attending AAM’s Annual Meeting as well as non-attendees who are professionals in the DC area who were motivated to connect with others addressing museums and race across the field.

Sessions were designed to meet people where they are, whether seeking an introduction or continuing to develop, in their awareness of how racism and oppressions function in museums and how to interrupt it and dismantle it.

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WHY UNBADGED ACCESS?

Museums & Race acknowledges the financial barriers that exist for museum professionals, particularly emerging professionals, to attend AAM’s Annual Meeting. One of Museum & Race’s tenets is intersectionality. Classism (economic oppression) intersects with and has characterized racism in the US with economic opportunities systematically and institutionally denied to people of color throughout our nation’s history. We acknowledge how other oppressions, such as sexism, also intersect with and predict experiences of economic oppression.

TRANSFORMATION LOUNGE

The lounge did not require timed access and was intended to be an active learning and conversation space. It included:

  • Story Kiosk: Volunteer Brad Larsen recorded participant stories and thoughts on three questions chosen by the planning team. Responses will be posted to YouTube.
  • Core Question Kiosks: Three Questions were curated by Visitors of Color, #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson, and the Museums & Race 2016 Convening Participants to catalyze informal dialogue throughout the lounge. Posters at three kiosks announced each question and posed pathways for participants to explore their responses together. Responses can be found here.
  • Resource Table: Computer with websites, books, handouts, articles, conference lists all related to museums addressing race, oppression and intersectionality.
  • Museums & Race 2016 Meet & Greet Table: Participants who came to Chicago for the “Museums & Race 2016: Transformation and Justice” convening in January were on hand to share their experiences, answer questions, and engage in dialogue about future action steps.

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FACILITATED SESSIONS

The sessions required pre-registration. Caps for each session were determined by the professional facilitators with the goal of providing a safe environment that fostered honest dialogue.
Session 1: Talking Race: The Power, Influence and Responsibility of Museum Professionals

Facilitators: Janeen Bryant and Lisa Junkin Lopez

12:15 -1:30pm, Capacity 35 and 1:45 – 3pm, Capacity 35 

For many years the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience has utilized the Arc of Dialogue to structure individual learning through four phases of facilitated dialogue. This workshop utilized this model to lead museum professionals through an examination of how their identities may impact their work as it relates to race in museums.

Session 2: Constructing Spaces for Honest Conversation About Race 

Facilitators: Joanne Jones Rizzi, Joe Imholte, and Josey Balenger

1:45 – 3:00pm, Capacity 60-65

After reviewing critical issues relevant to museums addressing race and racism, participants formed self-identified groups, white people and people of color, for a reflective dialog using Talking Circles, the successful model of participatory programming developed at the Science Museum of Minnesota to support honest dialogue about race, and racism in conjunction with the RACE: Are We So Different? exhibition. POC facilitated the dialogue with the POC break-out group and white facilitators lead the dialogue for the white break-out group.

Session 3: Institutional Self-Reflection in Museum Practice 

Facilitators: Gretchen Jennings and Alyssa Greenberg

3:15 – 4:30pm, Capacity 65-75

In this workshop, participants engaged in institutional self-reflection by applying the Empathetic Museum’s “Summary Maturity Model: A Model for Inner Transformation of Museum Structures” to their own institution, and then reflected on the model itself. This workshop focused on issues of racial and economic justice as benchmarks for institutional self- reflection and change.

GATHERING PARTNERS

Thanks to promotional partners and session/activity leaders:

Supported by The Museum Group and American Alliance of Museums

Download a copy of the final Gathering Report here.

 

AAM 2016 | A Statement from the Gathering

M&R 2016 Gathering attendees,

The Museums and Race Steering Committee would like to apologize for the inconvenience and emotional injuries that were caused during the registration process and session conversations. We are very sorry. Our goal in organizing the Gathering was to provide a space for authentic engagement around museums and race, which also grappled with topics like power, privilege, diversity and inclusion. According to some of the feedback that we received it is clear to this committee that we fell short of that goal. We hope that this apology serves as a step towards reconciliation to those who were injured and/or inconvenienced during this event.

We have already started to meet as a group to address these hard lessons and we know and understand that we cannot do this alone. Our hope is that we can involve more people in the planning and participation of next year’s gathering so that we can work together in developing a safe space for dialogue, coalition building and best practices that will meet everyone’s needs surrounding these important issues. We plan to use our website and our social media (Twitter and Facebook) to act as portals of interaction so that individuals can work in partnership around these important matters in our field.

For those who have not had an opportunity to share their feedback on the survey concerning the Gathering here is the link.

The survey will close Friday June 24, 2016.

We would also like to acknowledge those who came from near and far just to participate and Museums and Race. We appreciate the efforts you made to attend and we are committed to working with you on dismantling systemic racism in the museum field.

Sincerely,

The Museums and Race Steering Committee

V. Gina Díaz

Omar Eaton-Martínez

Joanne Jones-Rizzi

Margaret Kadoyama

2016 Convening | What Participants Said about Museums & Race

What participants learned that was most valuable

  • That professional practice, scholarship, and museums of color are largely notknown by our colleagues. It is important to acknowledge and build on that.
  • There is an urgent need for white museum professionals to address their privilege and role in oppressive systems. People of color bear a large burden when their white colleagues expect them to raise their awareness of racism and oppression.
  • The potential impact of addressing privilege and oppression in spaces where museum professionals assemble (such as association meetings) is great. It can also be a strategic way to effect awareness-raising in our white/largely white institutions.
  • Becoming connected with strong, leading thinkers and practitioners in the field. It was reinforcing to know people are doing active work to raise consciousness in matters of racial and intersectional issues and also to see their action to change the way museums think, act, and behave.
  • It is critical to meet people where they are in their process. Most valuable was the honesty from which people spoke and that people were very generous. Although some of the conversations were hard, it felt like a safe space for all.

 

What participants considered the most effective part of the convening

  • Small group discussions with report backs to big group. These were fruitful and we were able to work through our ideas and differences of opinion swiftly and with what felt like a lot of compassion. It also gave us more time to get to know one another.
  • Getting the tough stuff out and moving through it while also taking time and space to process.
  • Everyone was participating with the understanding that they were expecting to continue and be assigned roles in these actions post-convening. There was a great deal of ownership. Concrete action began even before everyone left on Wednesday.
  • The wonderful range of experiences and professional settings, age, gender, race and points of view which were expressed with tact and humility and supported by real listening.
  • Meeting others who care about the same issue.
  • The ice-breaker round robin. It was a great way to get to know something more deeply significant about our colleagues. We had one-on-one short conversations with one another, changing conversation partners for each prompt. The prompts were:
    • A person I admire and why 
    • An experience in my life that had a profound effect on me was… 
    • A quality I look for in a friend and why 
    • If you knew me well, you’d know that I….
    • What I would need from this group to feel that I could be honest with you is…

 

The value of the convening to the participants

  • It clarified what my institution should prioritize in capacity building, professional development and leadership at all levels.
  • To see generational differences in how people approach the topics, hurts that needed to be expressed, limited views that remain and make moving on difficult, etc.
  • To meet with others who had a collective expectation that we were present in order to move anti-racist work forward in the field.
  • To feel a strong sense of community with people I had never met before.
  • The amount of planning we were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time was incredible. I was reminded of the power of collective action and also the ways we are held back when we work in silos.
  • Realistic understanding that the enormity of the work still exists -we are a small group who is willing – the proof will remain in how well we do at sustaining the energy and translating it to action.
  • We do need to get white colleagues in the museum world to recognize the systems of discrimination and racial inequity in museums.
  • Some of the major ideas and plans center on the power of our white colleagues to destabilize their own power, and this is great. TMG is amazing for pulling this all together.
  • There has to be some real, visible shift to lift non-white voices and centerstage their actions as pertinent, necessary, and valuable to white people.
  • It is critical to show how nuanced the impact of polycultural engagements can be. Otherwise, we’re missing the important message that structural racism and inequality harm all of us.
  • I wish there was more time to process some of the findings and come to a more straightforward set of achievable outcomes with strategies and tactics in place.

 

Additional comments to the convening committees

  • We need to be as organized as possible and hold each group accountable by breaking the steps towards impact into bite-sized chunks. If we are to hold museums to metrics of accountability and high outcomes we must first start by holding our own work to the same standards.
  • For TMG—thanks for having the courage to name the issues and to collaborate with emerging thinkers and professionals concerned that previous/current strategies haven’t work/aren’t working/need revision, etc.
  • I hope we can mend fences in real, substantive ways with those who felt left out and make space for many, many more people who are ready with skills and tools already sharpened for the work.