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AAM Recognizes Three Individuals and Two Institutions for Exemplary Work in the Museum Field

Category: Press Release

For immediate release

ARLINGTON, VA – The Board of Directors of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, is thrilled to recognize the following individuals, institutions, and programs for their exemplary work.

Award for Distinguished Service to Museums
Recognizes an individual’s excellence and contributions to the museum field for at least 20 years.

Dr. Lyndel King
Director and Chief Curator of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum (WAM) at the University of Minnesota from 1981-2020, Dr. Lyndel King is honored for her transformative work at WAM and for the dedication of her time, talent, and experience throughout her career to enrich the museum field nationally and internationally.

King’s 40-year career at the Weisman Art Museum transformed the institution into one of the most influential university museums in the United States. During her time at WAM, she increased the collections by 64% and the museum’s physical size grew by 550%. Through her leadership at the museum, her involvement with international museum groups, and through conducting seminars around the world on museum practice, King encouraged museums to be reflections of their communities and to play a role in bringing diverse communities together. She regularly served on peer review committees for the NEA, NEH, IMLS, several state agencies, and as an accreditation reviewer for AAM.

Throughout her career, King championed women by hiring, mentoring, and promoting women across the field. She is widely recognized for adding a significant number of works by women artists to WAM’s collection, in addition to featuring prominent exhibitions of Latin American art, African art, and Native American art. King particularly emphasized modeling the highest standards of inclusion and accessibility with students—recognizing that students are the future museum staff, supporters, donors, and trustees of museums.

An effective leader, a strategic thinker, and a generous colleague, King was regularly tapped for volunteer leadership positions during her career. She served on American Alliance of Museums’ Board of Directors (2005-2011), as well as on the boards of the American Federation of the Arts; Association of Art Museum Directors; Association of College and University Museums; ICOM-University Museums and Collections; ICOM-USA; Partners for the Americas Minnesota-Uruguay; College of Visual Arts, St Paul; Hill Museum and Manuscript Library; Russian American Cultural Center; and Upper Midwest Conservation Association, Schubert Cub, and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

Nancy Hanks Award for Professional Excellence
Honors a museum professional with less than 10 years of experience in the museum field.

Brandie Macdonald
As Director of Decolonizing Initiatives at the Museum of Us, which resides on the ancestral homeland of Kumeyaay peoples in San Diego, CA, Brandie Macdonald (Chickasaw Nation/Choctaw Nation; she/her/they) applies anti-colonial/decolonial theory and methodology in museums by centering truth-telling, accountability, and systemic reform to redress colonial legacy, structural racism, and inequity.

Macdonald works collaboratively with the staff and trustees of the Museum of Us to build and implement a decolonizing initiatives practice with transformative impact on a wide array of stakeholders. She is responsible for ensuring that the museum’s decolonizing work positions the institution as a leader in the decolonization movement, both locally and globally. Prior to her current role, MacDonald served as the museum’s Director of Education and Public Engagement. Her work has radically transformed the institution, and she is having an enormous impact on the larger field as well.

Macdonald’s work at the Museum of Us aligns with her passion of developing pathways for organizations to apply decolonized theory, practice, and methodology to create a more equitable, inclusive, and racially just present and future. Her nonprofit career has focused on capacity building through transformative education practices rooted in open‐ended and community-centered experiential pedagogies. Prior to her work at the Museum of Us, Macdonald led First Peoples Fund’s (FPF) arts and economic capacity building initiatives on Indigenous reservations nationally. She co‐managed FPF’s professional development trainings for Indigenous artists and community organizations. Additionally, she was the founder of FPF’s Indigenous Youth Leadership Initiative, called Dances with Words. This spoken word program on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation focused on Indigenous inter‐generational healing through oral tradition. Macdonald has also worked as a museum educator at The Heritage Center at Red Cloud Indian School and at the Charlotte Museum of History.

Macdonald is an Education Studies PhD student and fellow at the University of California, San Diego. Her academic research focuses on decolonized praxis and anti‐colonial theory within informal learning spaces, focused specifically on museums. She holds a MEd in International Higher Education from Loyola University, Chicago, and a BA in Applied Anthropology from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Macdonald currently sits on the board of the Western Museums Association and has been a Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow, AAM Diversity Fellow, a Smithsonian Affiliate Fellow at the National Museum of the American Indian, and a Prominent Leader under 40 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Awards for Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion
Honors and celebrates individuals, organizations, and programs advancing the museum field in the areas of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI).

Janice Majewski
Janice Majewski is honored for her more than three decades of work on diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, dating to 1978 when she was Coordinator for Special Education at the Smithsonian Institution. She founded the Smithsonian’s Accessibility Program, collaborating with all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo. She led the team that wrote the first comprehensive set of U.S. museum exhibition inclusive-design guidelines, the Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design, and the museum training manual Part of Your General Public Is Disabled.

Majewski joined the Institute for Human Centered Design in 2014 to enrich her love for museums and to advocate for more inclusion. As Director of Inclusive Cultural and Educational Projects, she manages projects with clients such as the Smithsonian Latino Center; Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago; Thinc Design exhibits for Expo 2020 in Dubai; Gallagher and Associates for the US Olympic Museum; the National Air and Space Museum; Shedd Aquarium; and the International Spy Museum. In her educational commitments, Majewski also serves on accessible exhibition and program advisory committees for the Museum of Science, Boston; The Children’s Museum, Indianapolis; and the Audubon Naturalist Society, Chevy Chase, MD. She has volunteered her time and expertise over many years to the American Alliance of Museums, the Smithsonian, and emerging leaders. She is a frequent contributor to literature in the field.

Majewski’s colleagues cite her persistence, rigor, generosity, modesty, and her unwavering commitment to cultivating a shared vision of cultural inclusion as factors contributing to her success and the respect she has gained from the field.

Before joining IHCD, Majewski was an Accessibility Specialist in the Disability Rights Section (DRS) at the U.S. Department of Justice where she worked on issues of museum accessibility, accessible technology, collaboration between the disability and business communities, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) technical assistance.

Majewski began her working life by teaching elementary‐level deaf students in Arlington, Virginia public schools. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Connecticut College and a Master of Education of the Deaf from Smith College.

Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose
Serving one of the most diverse cities in the country, the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose (CDM) has dedicated itself since its founding in 1990 to ensuring it is a safe, engaging, and educational space for all children in the community. CDM has been on a three-decade long journey to make the museum welcoming, relevant, and responsive to all—including by serving the needs of newly arriving immigrants who make San Jose their home. The comprehensive strategies they employ spanned all aspects of museum operations, including exhibits, outreach, programs, events, tri-lingual signage, marketing, staffing, and governance.

The impact of the museum’s inclusive approach—initially focused on outreach to Mexican and Vietnamese communities—was profound. Soon, community members began approaching CDM about serving their communities in deeper ways. Today the museum offers 8 cultural festivals each year, celebrating Eastern Indian, Chinese Jewish, Special Needs, and LGBTQ+ families, in addition to Mexican and Vietnamese families. Their open-door admissions program ensures that all families—regardless of circumstances, socioeconomic status, or financial hardship—have access to the museum’s programs and offerings.

CDM’s impact reaches far beyond San Jose. Led by Executive Director Marilee Jennings, the museum’s staff has parlayed what they’ve learned over the years about serving their diverse community into the Cultural Competence Learning Institute (CCLI), a year-long national professional development program for museums now in its seventh year.

The Broad, Diversity Apprenticeship Program
The Broad’s Diversity Apprenticeship Program (DAP) creates career opportunities for underrepresented communities in the museum field broadly and in art handling and preparations specifically. The program serves, in real-time, as a springboard for the museum field to move toward more equitable workforce strategies.

Created in 2017, DAP provides apprenticeships to people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color; women; immigrants; LGBTQIA+; people who were formerly incarcerated; and foster youth. Apprenticeships are 9‐month, full‐time, paid (with benefits) positions that provide in‐depth training and hands‐on work through placements with 18 partner sites across Los Angeles. Participants also receive a mentor, as well as professional development opportunities in the form of workshops, career chats, site visits, and conferences. Through the program, apprentices build confidence, skills, best practices, and the network to create a lifelong opportunity for themselves and their families. The program has a 100% graduation rate and 87% employment rate, with many former apprentices obtaining full-time work in the field.

The DAP has been intentionally designed with diversity and equity in mind. The program’s recruitment strategy, for example, looks beyond traditional sources and approaches and instead begins from a place of fostering sincere and authentic connections with community organizations. DAP recruitment has been fueled by the belief that every hiring decision could widen or close the equity gaps within the field. In two years, more than 1,400 applicants have applied for the DAP, with 86% of those self‐identifying as POC. This level of response speaks to the need for these types of programs, but also helps shatter the myth that qualified candidates of color are difficult to find.

A strong example of a successful and inclusive model for the museum field, the DAP aims to actively share their learnings with colleagues around the world, with the goals of creating a climate of equity and opportunity for the art handling field, helping to professionalize the field, and driving long‐lasting industry‐wide change.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Natanya Khashan
Director, Marketing & Communications

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