This is a recorded session from the 2020 AAM Virtual Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo.
In 2019, we got real and vulnerable about the consequences stemming from the lack of diversity and representation within the museum exhibition field. We celebrated organizations and initiatives working to change the landscape and the conversation. This year, we double down. How are conversations and actions changing around these issues, if at all?
Presenters: Stacey B. Mann, Independent; Joanne Jones‐Rizzi, Science Museum of Minnesota; Marquette Folley, Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service; Veronica Garcia‐Luis, Exploratorium; Su Oh, Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County
Stacey Mann: Okay. Good morning, everybody.
I hope this finds everyone. Well, I want to welcome everybody to our session is that Hong white Revisited. We welcome you and we’re really glad that everybody is joining us today. We’re really looking forward to a candid and fruitful conversation.
So, before we begin, we wanted to just take a minute to reflect on where we are right now in the world.
Over the past week. A lot of us have been struggling to find the right words to express our grief or outrage or disbelief. And, our museum, the race colleagues have composed a statement of solidarity.
Every American should be chill to their very core that this world of hate oppression and systemic injustice is the one in which we live.
We acknowledge that the senseless deaths of Amman a brie armory Brianna Taylor George Floyd and Tony mcdade are literal reflections of anti-black white supremacist ideology that exists in America and can be seen in every facet of our museums.
When we run programs. We generally work with local indigenous communities to create statements.
To develop land acknowledgments their specific to our location. And obviously we’re all joining from many different places today.
And this practices grounded and acknowledging the colonial origins of our country and our cities and our organizations, by default.
And we want to acknowledge in this moment that we find ourselves in the moment we find ourselves in is kind of an extension of those colonial origins and the American tradition of inflict inflicting and accepting violence done to black and brown bodies.
An echo reverberating across history and asking us to listen and to see and to do better. And so today we want to ask everybody to take a moment to reflect on the history social circumstances and personal experiences that bring you to this place today.
First, whose ancestral home occupied where you now reside. Second, what circumstances brought you here. And third, how do you carry your ancestors with you in the world and we want to ask that everybody respected moment of silence and memory of those whose violent loss we continue to grieve.
Okay. Thank you. Appreciate that.
So today, our goal, our original goal and it’s still our goal, although we understand that the conversations brought into bit in light of the past week.
We wanted to revisit issues of race and inclusion and exhibitions this session represents an ongoing call a call to action for a museum colleagues and when we first brought this conversation forward in 2019, we really wanted to address the consequences that stem from a lack of diversity and representation within the exhibition field specifically we were met by deep nods of recognition.
By people you know who understood and could recognize the dynamics that we were talking about. There were also a lot of a lot of confusion and murmurs of kind of disbelief in the conversations that we were having from those who are maybe still disconnected from the issues. The DEAI issues that are playing out in our field.
This year we’ve convened new voices and brought new people to this virtual table to continue this conversation. We’re here with heavy hearts, obviously.
And but we want to continue this conversation to encourage our colleagues to act and acknowledge the systems or the systemic racism that is in place, not only within the society, but also within the organizations that we that we participate in every day.
So, we want to ask everybody to please come to this conversation with candor, with an open heart and also with a willingness to challenge themselves and to challenge one another with kindness and respect. That’s really the only way forward at the moment. So, we’ll take a few minutes just to introduce the panel and then we’ll get started. So, my name is Stacy, Mann.
I am an independent interpretive planner and exhibition developer I’m based in Philadelphia.
I also serve on the steering committee for museums and race and the empathetic museum and I’ll be helping to facilitate the conversation along today.
Along with Erica cutting gamma, who was one of our panelists from last year, and most recently was the Senior Director of audience engagement at the San Diego music, man. But like many of us, she’s lost her job, due to the covert 19 pandemic.
Joanne. Oh, actually.
I want to respectfully acknowledge that, where I live, that my city of Philadelphia is situated on Leonard pay hoping, which is the ancestral spiritual homeland of the now mean will not pay and I’m holding the people in my city, and really across the country in my heart right now as everybody continues to grieve and find ways to channel their outreach.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: Hi everybody I’m Joanne. Joanne fizzy. I’m the Vice President of finance equity in education at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
And I wish to acknowledge that the Science Museum of Minnesota is located on traditional ancestral and contemporary lands of indigenous people.
The museum stands on the Kota land taken in the Treaties of 1837 and 1861 we acknowledge this place has a complex and layered history, this land acknowledgement is one of the ways in which we work to educate audiences about this planned and our relationships with it, and each other.
The Science Museum is committed to ongoing efforts to recognize support and advocate for Native American nations and indigenous people as we work to heal our relationship with the earth and with each other.
Marquette Folley: Hello, I’m my Cat Folley. I am content director and Senior Project Director at the Smithsonian’s found exhibition service or sites.
The acknowledgement of those who were here before is important. I’d also like to acknowledge that the Smithsonian rest on land and with them buildings that were created by the enslaved African Americans of this country. It’s my privilege to be here. I look forward to our dialogue.
Su Oh: Hello everybody, my name is Sue. Oh, I’m the Senior Vice President of education exhibitions and Community Engagement at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
On behalf of the Natural History Museum, we would like to acknowledge that today and in virtual space that Los Angeles and that museum is gathered on the ancestral lands.
Of the tang tang and the Chumash, we know and acknowledge them as the First Peoples of this land and that our museum community lives and works in that space. And I’d like to thank you all for sharing space today with us and to be in this dialogue.
Elisabeth Callihan: Hello, everyone. I’m calling from the traditional lands of the Dakota and now back in a whole chunk people which we now call Minnesotan I want to respectfully acknowledge that and also acknowledge that I, like many people across the nation.
And attending today with a heavy heart full of anger and grief for what’s happening across the country.
And my name is Elizabeth Callahan, I’m the head of multigenerational learning at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and also one of the cofounders of the mass action movement.
today’s conversation feels both really insignificant, given what’s going on and also incredibly timely and important. So, I’m really glad to be in this space with you all, and I hope everyone’s doing well and look forward to the conversation.
Stacey Mann: So, um, we also just wanted to take a second to express our thanks to Veronica Garcia Lewis who is not able to join us today.
But it’s because she is celebrating her daughter’s graduation. And so, it couldn’t be a more joyous kind of moment in this this bleak landscape. So, yeah, so we want to just congratulate Maya and say that we were missing Veronica’s voice at the table, but we appreciate all of the work that she did and kind of helping to frame this conversation and get it to where it is today. So, if you see or hear from her, please, please share your things, so just to kind of get our started before we really jump into this we want to try something a little bit. A little bit different.
obviously want to keep moving this conversation forward. We started it last year, you know, we’re continuing it now. It’s not over. This is going to be something that we hopefully continue well into the future.
And we’ve identified a series of questions that will be using to kind of frame our conversation today, each of our panelists will be taking the lead on one of those questions.
And as we get ready to dig in. We’re going to try something different, inspired by our colleagues.
From the spark museum during their museums and race conference session. So, Jason Paulus my rep Halifax and Nicole bond. Thank you for showing us how it’s done.
Because it was a great panel. And it was really engaging. So, first, we really want to encourage everybody to join the conversation here within zoom. So, using the Q&A format.
There’s a Q&A function somewhere on your screen. So, we want people to use that actively and engage with us and questions. We have a couple of people that will be looking at the chat and at the Q&A to hopefully feed out those comments into the dialogue.
We’re also sharing a link to a Google Doc.
So, you can look in the chat. I think it’s, it’s a tiny URL that just went by super, super fast.
But if you scroll back in the chat. You can find that tiny URL and all the questions are listed there. We probably won’t be able to get to those comments in real-time, but it’s an opportunity for us to capture people’s ideas and reflections.
On this conversation to help us continue to use as we go forward. So, to help us with future programming.
Also, for people who maybe are just taking in this information, you tend to process will continue to put that will put that tiny URL up again at the end and folks can go and kind of after the session and share their thoughts and reflections on what we’ve discussed here today.
And then third, you can also join us on social media. So, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, we look forward to any sort of comments or feedback that you have in any of those channels.
So, without further ado, we will get started with our first question.
Why is this so complicated, Joanne? I’m sure you have a really easy answer for us.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: I don’t actually i mean i this is my question. Why is this so complicated. We’ve been we have been talking about this as long as I’ve been in the field, which is a long time and i. So, can we go to the next slide. They see so, who there. I’m sure many of you remember Excellence in Equity it was a report from a task force of am actually chaired by Bonnie Pittman, and it was first published in 1992. So, that was 28 years ago and I it’s why I asked this question like 28 years ago and I remember when it came out and I remember being really excited about it.
And excellence in equity is focused around three major key ideas. So, I’m not going to read them, but I’ll just summarize it asked that museums commit to education and to that this commitment is clearly expressed in in in our mission.
It says museums must be more inclusive and that they should welcome diverse audiences and they should reflect our society and that reflection should show up in every aspect of the museum operations and program.
And the third point says that forceful leadership their language forceful leadership from individuals institutions and organizations are key.
And in this case, the way that I interpret this they’re talking about distributed leadership and how that distributed leadership is critical.
To Advancing Excellence and equity. So, even the language that they use in 1992 is still relevant.
And so, it is. I mean, it is a little bit out of frustration that I asked this question about why is this so complicated. I see that there are 619 people on this.
This session. So, this is clearly something that people are thinking out about. We know that people care about it, collectively, I mean, and I understand the white supremacy cultures that museums are and how hard it is to change those system by. It’s an important question. So, what so I we each have about three minutes because we really wanted to leave time for conversation. So, can we have the next slide.
So, I’m just going to share a little bit about what we’re doing at the Science Museum of Minnesota. It’s not the gold standard.
We I recognize we recognize that we’re not where we want to be or where we should be. We’re working on it.
We, we are trying to be very intentional with our work and to hold ourselves accountable as much as we can.
So, this is a slide from a project that was an NSF funded project and that was focused on organizational change and focused on shifting the museum culture and it was a research project as well. We have an exhibition called race. Are we so different? With this travel around the country, but we were we, the research that we were doing is we were trying to understand. How could our organization be changed?
With respect to equity and inclusion because we had this exhibition. So, we created this theory, a theory of change to both hold ourselves accountable and to be very intentional with our work.
So, within this theory of change. We said we were committed as a museum. And this was our vision to advance racial equity and that we, it was part of our DNA that equity work with part of our DNA, we adopted a value.
That addressed it. It’s in our mission we created an equity statement. And so, this is this is our. This is our theory of change. Next slide.
So, our goal moving forward. And a lot of people had this and I should say that the theory of change was developed by 70 staff members, if not more across the organization. So, this wasn’t project leadership doing it. This was distributed leadership and really our goal with the project.
And our goal in all of our work is to dissenter whiteness. So, with who, with the people with who we work with and with our visitors and to be intentional with that. So, we you know we wanted our staff, who’s coming to our who were collaborating with who we are, who our visitors are to reflect the Twin Cities culture and demographics.
We wanted people of color who work at our museum, people of color who visit our museum, people of color who are working with us to have positive experiences.
Afternoon museum and we wanted to have racial equity be core value of our work moving of everything that we did everything that we do. Can you move to the next slide?
So, this and this is just sort of outline to sort of how we defined this how we see how we kind of want looked at systems change. So, we, the, the leaders define and a model for this. What this commitment, looks like we wanted to professionalize the equity work for all of our staff, we wanted to look at system support to create a equitable culture within the museum. And we wanted to create processes and create ways for us to collaborate across departments.
So, one more slide.
So, and finally the foundation of the work is that we are investing long term in this in equity efforts and that in order for us to do that.
We felt it was really important that we questioned the culture of science and the culture of museums as white that we couldn’t do our equity work without having that having that lens and we couldn’t achieve our overall goal of the centering whiteness without asking that without using that as a sort of investigation.
I will turn it over, I’m so, there’s anybody off Stacy I’m not going to do your job for you.
Stacey Mann: So yeah, I mean, I think, you know, this is a question that we started talking about several weeks ago right when we first kind of came together and we were talking just about what we wanted to cover here.
And I’m there is something to the fact that we have literally been talking about this for decades and it has just been going on and on and on and on.
And then obviously events have conspired to kind of bring us you know into this conversation at this particular moment. And so, I’m just, I’m really curious to hear from Sue Marquette Elizabeth in terms of how yeah, like, what, how do you think about the complexity or the not so complex, like it’s I think we, we, we’d like to overcomplicate things.
Marquette Folley: Yes, we do.
Like to overcomplicate things as part of our magic as people who believe in the intricacies of learning and broad stroke possibilities when you look at creating but why this question still the humanity that is hit with a kind of psychic abuse regularly asked the same question, how do we change that reality that in 19 in the 1990s was Austin thought that there was opportunity and possibility. I think we have to be intentional.
We have to not pretend that is not. It is not just a racial code it reality is economic and regional coded reality. Who do we think has the voice or the right to be in the room of culture?
On every level, how are we hearing other ones. What is other I think we have to be very honest about the reality that there is a culture.
There’s a way of thinking that’s implicated. And until we actually put our finger on it. Honestly, then we’ll be asking these questions over and over again.
Does that make sense?
Su Oh: And I think about what was a very poignant moment. And especially when you’re talking about 1992 in the 92 riots in Los Angeles and how you know, that was that was related to the Rodney King verdict, and yet.
Again, with recent events, how, how, again, how is this happening again. How are these, have we not made progress and the cities who have gone in through different phases of recovery through all these events like what, what is it at sometimes I wonder if the colonial origins of museums, especially in the natural history context, which is that’s a complicated long conversation ended of itself is what would almost roots us in a place that it’s hard to unmute ourselves and that is a really big question in that space. We have to address and maybe there’s a little bit of fear of not being able to control the fact that history and these events all have a truth that don’t show the pretty sides of ourselves, you know, so.
Elisabeth Callihan: Yeah, thank you for that. Sue, because I’ve been thinking a lot about this question, Joanne and just thinking about how we’ve tried to come at it for the past 40 years now through these really through both deep and superficial actions, right, we’re trying to attack this from a number of places. But I think that the roots of white supremacy culture are so deeply entrenched in museums. I mean, particularly in art museums naturally history museums as well.
That the very bedrock that were founded on, we have to address and instead of trying to shift systems really kind of back it up to the beginning.
On learned unpack it and start all over again. I don’t, I don’t see how we change without some real radical from the beginning shifts.
Stacey Mann: Excellent. Thank you so much. Erica. Were there any questions that we want to throw in from the attendees.
Erika Katayama: Yes. There was one question that was directed towards Julian she this person was asking. Were you working on other aspects of equity simultaneously, for example, LGBT Q gender, etc, or were uniquely focused on racial equity?
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: That’s a great question. We were focused on equity, more broadly, the project that I referenced was focused around race because it was connected to the race exhibition but we are we are focused within the institution on equity in a broader way I do. But I do think that it’s important to think about equity if we don’t do it.
I think this is one of the reasons why it’s so complicated, and I’m not at all, minimizing other ways gender equity LGBT Q equity. I’m ability equity or equity around ability and accessibility. But if we don’t deal with this these around race. If we don’t deal with equity at that kind of level. I think it’s really hard. And I think sometimes I’ll just have to say this, like, it’s much easier for people to say, we have to think about it more broadly. When we first started talking about this with the trustees of the museum.
People are really uncomfortable around re talking about it around race that and around, you know that that immediate face if they went to was just, you know, why is it always around race. What about these other issues and I if we can’t deal with it around race and how can we actually address these other issues and it is sometimes, you know, people are uncomfortable and that that we just have to live with that with that discomfort is maybe one of the reasons why.
It’s taken so long because we’re people aren’t comfortable with, with the level of how hard this is going to be. I hope I answered your question.
Marquette Folley: I think you put a very good point on the table again, Joanne, I think, I think we have to be aware that there is a culture we I think we’re seeing that over and over again.
And unless we actually put our finger on that which makes which is the hottest of those issues around equity. How do we move forward?
You’ve really we really do have to do the intentional hard work of actually accepting
That there is a culture that we live and that we, in many ways, appreciate and Revere, but there is room to make it more honest and frankly more viable to be able to do the work. We want to do through the centuries.
Stacey Mann: Thank you everybody for sharing. Um, so, sue you had asked a really great conversation again as we were kind of planning this in terms of
Trying to figure out, like, why is this always a separate conversation right. Why are we always thinking about these things as being kind of siloed discussions with as opposed to a holistic systemic approach so…
Su Oh: As many of you may or may not know, many times the di initiatives are maybe sometimes on the shoulders of one person to initiate or there’s that one Community Engagement Manager, but the you know, if we truly want to be living in the space. I think we need to have it baked into our DNA. So, going back to the ideas of the foundations.
Of what a museum is maybe that is again on not comfortable place because the foundations themselves are not built in with that DNA. So, sometimes, this requires an explicit effort as Joanne had alluded to. So, I wanted to go to the next slide. Each museum has their own journey.
You know, wherever it is, and we look to colleagues, like the Science Museum in Minnesota who have been on this journey, a little bit longer than ourselves. And in the last year, we put for us to expand our role as a museum of four and with Los Angeles. And the question becomes, what do these words really mean it’s very simple statement language in this context as we know now is really, really important and how we use it.
Is also a place where you can’t, you know, we have this strategic goal for over two years now, we have cried tried to coalesce the critical mass in the center of our institution across departments?
Where you know really believe that we have to build this forward motion. And if you do that.
You can’t really be ignored because there is a critical mass with that if you do exhibitions in which you don’t have a person of color.
And if there is an important story and the dialogue to be had. You need to invite others to make that to create that story with you.
Whether its community partners are reaching out, it cannot be in the confines of your own institution and I and in our case, we’re also talking about nature culture.
And science. It’s just as important to have that representation across into the science and fields. So, within that context I really, and thanks for the correction on right that is really important to know that you put this for so we are have not yet put out a DEA statement we have spent two years really trying to work on our internal learning as an institution. So, we are in that space before and then once we put forth the aspirational statement of the DEA I work that we’re doing it is our accountability, because we have to share that externally so wherever your institution museum organization is in this journey. The important part is you take the journey.
Right, that you start the journey. So, next I’m actually fairly new to overseeing exhibitions, but one thing I wanted to bring up is this piece that we recently that we recently showed called la history Mexican perspective by the artist Barbara Carrasco. This was originally commissioned in 1981, for a city’s Bicentennial the community redevelopment agency and when she put forth this piece. It was a landmark mural that portrayed the city’s history in the woven hair of La Reina de Los Angeles.
But when once the Commission was done. There were 14 panels, and this is very complex. This goes from prehistory libretto tar pits, all the way to contemporary history.
The, the CRA did not, they asked her to edit 14 panels is people want don’t want to see that they don’t want to see those hard things that happened in their history and she refused.
And she went through a long battle to share her voice and to say that we, we, she’s not going to be censored.
This piece has not been seen more than three times since its origination. So, we showed it last year. We’ve now acquired it but there’s important when we’re talking about history.
Voices, it is still important to even go back and correct that. Because sometimes history is written as we all know from a dominant perspective. So, in her case some of the examples of the stories that were asked to be removed the Japanese internment during World War Two.
Bridget, Biddy Mason, who was a slave was brought to California who fought for her freedom and refused to go back to Texas her story as an entrepreneur and an independent person and woman that really was really inspirational in our Los Angeles. History The Colonia servitude of the Native Americans under Spanish colonial rule.
And as, as well as just even things like the Battle of Java’s ravine, where Dodger Stadium is now sitting on a place where 1800 residents were displaced in order to create that so that are those are four examples, and she was explicitly asked to remove them. So, what happens when we take all those voices out in our own history because we don’t, we’re afraid.
To see it, but that is what makes us the complex fabric that we are and we need to have as was stated with the previous panelists. We need to have those discussions.
And we need to rise from that place.
Stacey Mann: So, there’s actually quite a few interesting comments in the chat and I know Eric is looking at the Q&A area as well.
I mean, talking about, you know, the issues with the pipeline right and the issues around equity and access to Museum Studies programs or even the requirement to have museum studies degrees or master’s degrees for entry level work, you know, and conversations around how do you prioritize this work that’s being talked about here with tight budgets, you know, and tight staff and how do you restructure when you barely have enough people to kind of function where you currently are.
Which is the complexity of it right that’s it’s what makes it challenging, and no one said it was going to be easy.
So, yeah. So, I guess I’m curious in terms like Joanna Marquette, you know, Elizabeth, in terms of the organizations and departments that you work in. I mean, how do you, how do you how do you figure out how to integrate these conversations like into the work that you’re doing holistically and how do you prioritize? I mean, I know we have another question, we start to talk about values and priorities but just to kind of to start that.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: I think part of it has to do with just an overall you know, I talked about a culture shift and looking at our work from organizational kind of perspective. And so, part of it is just I mean embedding it in the work and so that it isn’t just this work isn’t relegated to a few people who have the title community or engagement or equity something in their job that it is it is the work of the whole organization so that we’re, we’re all asking the questions. It doesn’t place the burden of advocating for other work or having it be something that’s separate rather than it’s embedded in the work with, as I said, you know, we are, we’re not where we need to be. But I’m not the only person asking these questions anymore. I’m not the only person who’s reminding people of certain things and that it’s, it’s shifting, and that people feel confident. Sometimes they don’t. But sometimes they feel like they need to ask and what’s happening right now in Minnesota. And what we’re doing and kind of, you know, what kind of statement, we should put out, you know, a lot of that is coming to me. But it’s coming to but it is…
People are being really smart about it and people are being really sent to them and they understand that this is very complicated and we’re. It’s a very intense uncomfortable time for people painful time for people so i think i embedding it having this be the work of everybody in the institution and having people understand that, like, How is this my work if I’m doing a job that is not an education or isn’t an exhibition or you know, if I’m working in the finance office or if I’m like working in the mission advancement, how can I, how can I advance equity work from the position I have. And so, it’s important that that everybody see themselves and see their wall in heaven. It isn’t a separate conversation and that there. They can be part of that conversation.
Marquette Folley: I’m at the Smithsonian Institution and we really do believe that we hold the stories of all the nation, all the people
And we have multiple museums and multiple research arms, and we too are not perfect, but the inculcation of thinking about the broadness the diversity of us is ever present
We are the first to admit that we’re not perfect. We keep working at it, but it is not just in one place in one department, it has to the questions, the answers being offered to those questions have to emerge from every single layer in our institution. It is part of our site, guys.
It is a necessary part of how we see how we check in how we story tell what we bounced certain stories against what we what we think about who isn’t present, be it an exhibition or part of a collection or workforce, it has to be intentional, and it is hard.
It is even if, at the time is at the top rung of our organization that’s belief in every other wrong is agreeing to it. It is still hard. It’s a constant intentionality.
But you have to understand that this thing called diversity is a strength of any organization.
And especially organizations who are focused on telling and creating cultural presence for. Noun for the future and recommends recognizing our past. We can’t know how strong we are, we don’t see all of us see all of the stories. So, I agree with Joanne’s point. It is an institutional initiative that has muscle behind it and it has to happen every day.
Stacey Mann: So, so, yeah. So, speaking of priorities and I think it’s a great a lovely transition. So, Elizabeth I think this was one that you and Veronica were really kind of wrestling with and thinking through in terms of the this idea of like what our institutional values. What do we prioritize how we go about doing this work so?
Elisabeth Callihan: Yeah, absolutely. It’s so related to the previous conversation and markets and love what you were saying.
Because what is this commitment and when things get tough and museums. We talked a lot about our mission and values, but as most of us who actually work in a museum know
That our values are not often what’s in our mission. Our values are what we’re putting our time and energy. And frankly, our capital into
I think if you asked pretty much anyone on this call, maybe anyone in our museums, they would say, yes, we believe in racial equity yes we’re committed to it.
But if we down a little deeper. And we looked at what you’re actually putting your time and money into it. That might not align.
So right now, as museums are facing maybe one of the largest financial crisis, at least in my lifetime, maybe in museum lifetimes and leaders are really making decisions about what it is our priorities are going to be.
So how do we at this level at all levels have the really tough conversations inside the museum to say as Joanne has said, you know, it doesn’t have to be complicated. And as Sue has shared it should not be a separate conversation.
And so, we need to push our leaders to commit to equity, not just when it’s convenient. Convenient, not just when resources are abundant.
But most importantly right now. And as I said earlier, I really feel like it’s important that it’s part of our very bedrock and Stacey, if you’ll go to the next slide.
So I think the challenge is that for many museums predominantly white institutions like the one I come from; we think we are committing we think we are committed. And the way I’m using here refers to predominantly white leadership.
And well-intentioned white staff or the dangerous white moderate as Dr. King has pointed to, so we have started our journey as you said.
So, for example, at NEA we have this clearly articulated commitment to Ida. What you’re seeing here is on our website. It’s also a policy that staff sign when they start with the museum.
And on the right, you’ll see a snippet from our strategic plan, which is a really community centered strategic plan that’s meant to guide our decision making and yet this clearly articulated commitment is just that it’s just words. So, without actions to back it up. It just sort of stays there. So, Stacey feel, go to the next slide.
So, I’m not saying just jump from words to action because I really think we also need to interrogate our actions, for example, two years ago, we held this exhibition called art and healing. It was co-created with
Valerie Castillo, the mother Fernando Castillo, who’s a black man murdered by a Minneapolis Police officer and the staff who worked on this exhibition were mostly white and too many in the institution we thought it was enough that we were hosting it didn’t matter that we diluted. Much of the content to make it palatable for a white audience. It didn’t matter that we made some really weird fear-based decisions to cater to wealthy donors and patrons. It didn’t matter that we neglected to center the very people who were most impacted by this for most of the people in the institution, the action itself felt like it was enough.
And to be fair, many people in our community thanked us for hosting it they said this was the first time that they had felt seen and reflected in the institution in their lives. And they were thankful for it.
But for many of our staff of color. They had never felt less seen by the museum because they had their work consulted about decisions or their input wasn’t valued.
So, in the intervening year we’ve done a lot more or the intervening two years, we’ve done a lot more actions like this. We’ve done a lot of partnerships and other exhibitions and things like that. But again, with really mixed impacts. So, earlier this year, we did a staff wide survey around IDA engagement. It was originally developed by Chris Taylor at Minnesota Historical and evaluated by Evelyn running at science museum and it’s up on the website at mass action if you want to do it at your own institutions.
But when we looked at the staff responses along racial demographic lines, we noticed that overwhelmingly our staff of color felt like they weren’t valued at the institutions.
And I think that was challenging for our leadership, because they were saying, Wait, we have the words we’ve been doing the actions. What’s missing so Stacey feel, go to the last slide.
So, this idea of what we value, I think, has to be more than our words or isolated actions racial equity in order to be a value has to be in our individual DNA, it has to as Adrian Ray Brown always says she and talks about, we have to act practically right what we do in the smallest and rolls up to the largest level. So, it rolls up to our institutions. So, if we want to ensure that racial equity is a value, we have to ensure that every single word action and decision we make in the institution truly reflects that or museums are going to continue losing brilliant staff of color.
And would they will never be relevant and reflective of our communities of color. So, while this is always been really, really important. I can’t imagine how it could be any more urgent right now.
Thank you. Stacey?
Stacey Mann: So, I definitely want to make sure that we have time for kind of our final question, and some final Q&A but I know there was a question. There’s a couple things that have come up in the chat around just around the moment that we are right now that we’re in right now where so many so much staff has been laid off and furloughed. Many times, that is the those are the individuals that kind of represent that diversity that we say we so desperately want and the staff that’s left is at the executive level or the management level.
And so yeah, I mean. Do people have any thoughts on kind of the challenge that we find ourselves in right now in terms of living these values living these priorities when there’s a question of, of how we’re even going to staff, you know, or fund our museums moving forward.
Su Oh: Well, that’s a tough one. So, I actually oversee education educators, all the way to exhibit designers and our evaluator. And I would say this has been a really extreme tough time for that perspective I think Elizabeth, you hit it right on the head is the disconnect between the equity within the museum itself against the equity that you’re trying to to place in your outward facing engagements. I think it’s a reality that we are all talking about but on the external facing front I we I am very proud that we are going to be kind of double downing and really putting effort.
Into continuing this work, if not more intensely on the internal side, I think we have to remind ourselves that our internal communities are still represented through those external communities. And so, we are having some serious discussions about those points. Exactly.
Because if you eliminate that. What is our future. If this time in 2008 what happens in 10 years. What does our museum look like and still look like? So that’s what I’m concerned about on many levels is the leadership that I desire, our field to have and how these kinds of moments are.
Can kind of erase progress and erase the possibility and discourage people to stick it out. I mean, in a way that
I mean I’m personally committed, but as you all know, we all have to be kind of like warriors in this in this journey so.
But I don’t think it’s a simple answer, but absolutely something that needs to be addressed and continue to be addressed.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: I so we laid off temporary laid off 87% of our staff and at the senior leadership level.
In thinking about when we come back and we will come back, we don’t we don’t even have our original opening date was June 8 and when we first closed in March we that seemed like an eternity.
So, there’s a lot of uncertainty, I would say, I feel very fortunate I the senior leadership of the museum is very much committed to our equity work and the decisions that will be making moving forward on what the staffing looks like and what we’re what our work is focused on will be will center equity we say we, you know, science education equity and educate clients and education is core to who we are and we center equity and everything we do.
And as I said earlier, we’re not where we want to be, but it said that but the intentionality. And the fact that we were. We talked about it.
And this is it’s it is part of our criteria for how we do what we do. So, I know, and I think it is it the next few years, and maybe more closer. The next few months. It’s going to be important. And we’re going to see what things look like as museums struggle with.
You know, bringing back staff are hoping to reopen and what their staffing looks like and what their what they’ll focus on it is, is it is complicated, and you know in a climate and culture of a lot of uncertainty, particularly around the pandemic and what is going to be safe for visitors.
Stacey Mann: Okay, so our final question, and we’ve got about eight minutes left. And I know we wanted a couple minutes at the end.
So, um, so, yeah. I mean, I think the big question is, what are we so afraid of, you know, market. This was your, you know, this is your, your space so.
Marquette Folley: So interesting point three years ago my organization looked around and saw that a body-colored African American male was allowed to be seen as fearful enough to kill and we thought it was necessary to paint stories that show the diversity broadness affirmative reality of African American men and the communities that give us leaders. Next slide. Stacey.
We also wanted to totally incorporate a voice that was obligingly embracing of an African American aesthetic of calling response percussive rhythm, in all honesty, the voices, we want to be able to be heard were voices and eyes of the young we think if change happens it happens by somehow giving people the site to see at a time with is still forming ideas.
And so, at a time when the black male body is allowed to be killed a time right now. These words are the introduction to our exhibition. Have you seen them?
They are bold powerful tragic beautiful and true that there are African American men over the decades, who are leaders in art and culture and science in business and they’re real. You either you can know them or not know them, and yet they’re real, and they are examples this exhibition goes on to say, For every gender.
Every age every ethnicity. Next slide. Stacey. So, how you tell stories. Well, we had this amazing group of advisors who said, just tell the authentic story. We don’t have to be in debate with the Racist narrative or the broad cultural narrative that somehow makes being black somehow a problem to be overcome, so in this exhibition at one of the very beginning parts of exhibition, we look at a back that many people will see as victimization. We say no.
This is not a victim. This is an example of a man with strength nobility, a warrior. So, an exhibition allows itself to one.
Throw away the tropes of whatever that tradition is this is ideally simple almost Hall of Fame kind of exhibition.
We threw that away though we have in this exhibition 25 to 27 men that we use as iconic they are yet metaphor for multiple voices, both men and women within the exhibition but the very important point that derived from Ivies as wise just speak authenticity. Don’t feel obligated to debate untruths. Next slide.
This exhibition allows itself to be art is cultural history, but it’s art and accompany the exhibition are 25 contemporary artists who have iconic minute change portrait of them in different disciplines from a from video art to portrait and yet this exhibition, as you see storytellers with language images counterpoint it to just all ultimately make the truth.
American culture is broadly diverse the power of eyes is broadly diverse if we refuse to look at the clear open landscape of all heroes, we become less.
This exhibition purposefully does that it intentionally decides that even if I talk about storyteller, a dancer is a storyteller, even if I talk about what is community than a woman saying to a mass communications organization, you will uncover the cloth of my child’s body because community must see all of this as an exhibition and it affirms the height of the exhibition is purposeful. The storytellers are purposeful.
So, how hard is it to say to believe that the human condition.
Can be metaphor by a black body.
Stacey Mann: Sadly, we are almost out of time. And I know we tried to cram a lot into this conversation. So, I just, I appreciate that everybody has, has come to the conversation.
Just raw right and open and talking about our experiences and talking about what we observe and what we do in our day to day to try and move this conversation this work forward, um, I want to remind people that there is this Google Doc, where we’re collecting reflections and collecting comments beyond just this just this session. And so, we definitely encourage people to go there and continue to kind of add to that dialogue we will probably pop over there in a few minutes to take a look at what’s going on.
And we want to close. Just very quickly, with a video that we actually were planning to close with um
Everything that one.
I gotta carry on.
Don’t get you
Don’t get to sleep enough
We appreciate you being here today.
Marquette Folley: Wow Did I make any sense. I…
Elisabeth Callihan: Did I ever had. You were beautiful.
Marquette Folley: Oh, good. Her favorite.
Su Oh: Is perfect.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: So good. Really good at it actually was a perfect ending.
Elisabeth Callihan: Last question mark at your last statement was just…
Marquette Folley: Good, good. This week,
Wow congratulation Stacey. Great, great group.
Erika Katayama: So, thank you, Stacy recording still live. Everybody still alive and still recording?
Stacey Mann: Thank you everybody for coming. We
Elisabeth Callihan: Would agree that market was great. Right.
Marquette Folley: We all were. This is great.
Su Oh: Great, great.
Stacey Mann: So, yeah. So, thank you everybody for being here, thank you everybody for participating. The panel on the time that you donate to…
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: Okay. Sophie. Sophie. Yeah. Number three. Next year we gotta do it.
Stacey Mann: Okay.
Marquette Folley: Yes.
Joanne Jones-Rizzi: Okay, it’ll be easier. But with I showed it with
Marquette Folley: With NASA to an abrupt time