We are a group of museum professionals who are interested in effecting radical change in our field. We believe that it is the persistent and pervasive presence of structural racism in our institutions that is at the heart of the museum field’s failure to diversify its boards, staffs, collections, members and visitors, despite over a generation of effort in this area. We also believe that coming to understand and recognize entrenched racism is a difficult and potentially contentious undertaking—but also a necessary step—if America’s museums are to serve its diverse citizenry.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us who diligently established a foundation for us to build a sustainable movement. Thus, the purpose of this convening is to take a first step by gathering a multigenerational group of museum professionals to:
1. Listen to the experiences, data, and insights of participants—especially those of color—and learn from them.
2. Create a new paradigm for how museums address their responsibility for fair and inclusive staffing, collections, and interpretation and equality of access to their resources.
This new paradigm will examine a vocabulary and a set of theories not usually found in current museum discourse:
- Oppression: identifying the complex – and too often unacknowledged – ways in which systemic structural norms influence decision-making so that cultural institutions present themselves in ways that are unacceptable and exclusionary to many.
- Privilege: pervasive assumptions of whiteness and wealth, which are counter to inclusion and diversity (and, in fact, perpetuate white cultural dominance).
- Intersectionality: understanding how race intersects with gender, social justice, class, and socioeconomic status.
3. Create a six- to twelve-month action plan to plant seeds that will take root in various geographic areas and museum disciplines in order to:
- persuade our colleagues that it is necessary to adopt a new philosophical stance on the role of the museum that is both morally and culturally responsive and grounded in empathy, respect, and inclusion;
- examine, and ultimately, transform, institutional policies.