What does it take to mobilize institutions to question their role in society, shift their culture, and better serve their communities? How can independent museum professionals inspire their clients to strive for a more equitable society? Learn from a panel of independent museum professionals who have dared to shake up the status quo.
Panelists Salvador Acevedo, Gretchen Jennings, and Evelyn Orantes share their experiences as agents of change. They talk about how they have partnered with clients to generate movement from inside institutions, creating a ripple effect that resonates far beyond their walls. Participate in conversations and leave with ideas on how you can continue to be an agent of change.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Welcome everyone. I see people connecting to your audio and please start being comfortable and think that this is a conversation amongst friends and colleagues. And I’m very pleased to be here with very dear friends and very dear colleagues, not only from the Independent Museum Professionals, but also our panelists. Wonderful. I remind you all that, when you enter to this room, you are muted and this session is going to be recorded. Wonderful. So we see more people coming in and I’m going to keep one more minute to everybody to get settled in the room.
Wonderful. It’s good to see also attendees who are familiar faces, who I see in person lately. So Hillary, so happy to see you. Wonderful. So welcome to IMP talk. The first of the series, Agents of Change the session, as I mentioned before, is being recorded. And today I’m the facilitator. My name is Amparo Leyman Pino. I am the principal and founder of Yellow Cow Consulting, which is an educational firm based in the San Francisco, Bay Area, focused on supporting institutions to become more diverse and inclusive. Also on this session, our fellow IMPs, Laura Roberts, a strategic planner and Susan Johnson, a creator editor, and storyteller. Can you wave so people can identify you Laura and… Oh, this is my time to do this to the slides. Okay, there you are. So you can match the faces on the screen with the faces on the people’s squares when speaking. And well, this is… I welcome you to this webinar.
And if you want to, you can edit your name on your screen. You can put your name, you can put your institution and you can put also your pronouns. And you are welcome to put all those things. You can also put your baby name, your institution, and your pronouns, as you prefer to do. And wonderful. And even though this is a virtual program, I invite you all to acknowledge the land where you are sitting, standing, receiving this webinar, whatever land, if you are in the US, or you are in another territory, and you know that this territory was occupied by colonialism, I invite you to acknowledge that land. To know that that land belong and was a part of the ancestral lands of the first nation peoples, wherever you are. Maybe you’re not in the land, that you need to acknowledge, and now you are native of that land. For example, that happens to me when I go to my near Mexico city, I don’t have to do the land acknowledgment, but if you are in an occupied territory, please do.
If you don’t know, if you are in an occupied land, you can also refer to the link on the chat and learn more about it. This is a program from the Independent Museum Professionals, shortened as IMPs, which is a network that belongs to AAM’s professional networks. And we’re a network consultants of freelancers, who we work on, different areas of museums and all type of museums and cultural institutions. Our network tries to provide resources, knowledge, and connections. And we actively work to support Independent Museum Professionals strengthen the relationships between this Independent Museum Professionals and museums and advance the field together. If you’re interested in joining IMP, we’ll provide more info at the end of the session. Today’s program is the first of a series of panels with inspiring colleagues, who are going to share with us their journey as Agents of Change.
Oh, sorry. We’re going to be together here, and we’re going to have the opportunity to learn from these panelists. We’re going to share in the chat, ideas, and of course your questions when we open the questions. Then we’re also inviting you to connect with everyone. We’re going to put on the chat a spreadsheet, that has also the opportunity for you to put your contact info. And that, we’re going to share it later on when the program is finished. We’re going to send you all the contact info if you agree to do so. So we’re going to use the chat as a way to communicate amongst us. Please use the button of everyone, so your questions can be read by all the IMPs who are running this program. Wonderful. And please take advantage of the networking opportunity of putting your contact info in our spreadsheet, so we can share it with other IMPs or people who attend this program. So we all have that opportunity to connect amongst each other.
Well, today we have a great program and I have the honor to have with us in this panel, these three amazing colleagues Salvador Acevedo, Evelyn Orantes, and Gretchen Jennings. And we’re going to have this panel with them. They’re going to have a presentation, five minutes each, and afterwards, we’re going to open the floor for all of you to share with them or have a conversation about your questions or concerns, on being Agents of Change as Independent Museum Professionals or freelancers or people that are not in an institution working, but making change inside the organization. I said, so I’m going to start with, Salvador Acevedo.
It is my time to introduce you to him. Which is a colleague who has over 20 years of experience, helping organizations link their design and innovation strategies with various cultures within the US. Being bilingual and bicultural, he gives the ability to recognize the cultural markers, that signal inclusion, and he is committed to open opportunities for all these people. He’s been professionally invested in helping organizations, increase diversity, deepen inclusion, and advancing equity in a broad range of fields. From arts and culture, to informal education and urban planning. He’s a founding member of the Emerging Leaders of Color network managed by the Western States Arts Federation, the WESTAF. And he is a regular speaker at conference on DEI topics, and is a Ted X, top speaker with a talk, I’m Mestizo, which I highly recommend you to watch after this one, please. So Salvador, the floor is all yours. Welcome.
Thank you so Amparo. Really happy to be here, especially this being the first webinar in a series. I don’t want to put anybody on the spot, but if you feel inclined to turn on your cameras, I think it’s always great to see faces instead of just names. That’ll be great. So, Agents of Change, when Amparo invited us to talk about this, the first thing that came to my mind was, “What does it mean change?” These days, a lot of our consulting work starts with what we call a semantic analysis. In which we try to understand what our clients mean by the things that they want to solve, the problems that they want to solve. We do a lot of community engagement and just community and engagement means many very different things for people. So I want to talk about the two types of change based on Paul Watzlawick framework and his seminal book, Change.
And I bring Paul Watzlawick from outside of the museum world. One of the things that I always like to do in my work is to bring models and frameworks from other fields, so we create a more interdisciplinary approach. Which I always think that it’s great for us in the museum field to get out of… Put our faces and our heads fully in that field and start thinking also, what is happening in other fields? Anyway, Watzlawick does a combination of mathematical analysis and family systems, think psychotherapy. And basically… Can I have the next slide? Watzlawick defines two types of change. Change one, that’s how he calls it, which is designed to maintain the status quo by adapting. And then change two, which is designed to disrupt the status quo by evolving.
And I think this is a really important distinction, because in my work, usually what I hear when I talk with different staff museum is that, younger staff and junior staff, oftentimes they are thinking about disrupting the status quo and creating a whole new, different thing. Leadership, which is much more cautious and conservative, they are always thinking, No, no, no, let’s not ruffle feathers, and let’s just try to adapt as much as possible. So the key thing is that I think most museums when they are talking about change, what they mean is change one, not disrupting the status quo and adapting to new situations. But as the French would say, Things change in order to remain the same. So starting there, I think that’s a very good, important step.
And then the second very important step is to define the problem that we all are going to try to solve. But oftentimes the problem that we’re trying to solve is very different for different people, and also oftentimes it is not exactly the right problem that we want to solve. And I’m going to give you a brief example, again, outside of the museum field, just so you get an idea of why it is important to define the right problem, the right question that we’re asking ourselves. So an airport in Texas many years ago had a really a big problem in which, customers would complain heavily about the time that it would take for them to get their luggage. So they would get out of the plane, get to the luggage area and their bags would take a lot of time, so they were getting hit with lots and lots of complaints. So naturally, the airport, what they did was to hire an engineering firm, a engineering consulting firm, and they said, “Okay, the problem that we need to solve is how do we get the luggage faster to the consumers?”
So, they did all these modifications, millions and millions of dollars to change the way that the airport operates, so people would get their bags in 10 minutes, tops. And guess what happened? People kept complaining because it was too long. So then the airport decided to leave the engineering aside and hire a design strategy firm, an agency just like mine. And what they said is that, you have the wrong question. The question is not, how do you get the bags as fast as possible to the consumer, but how do you get the consumer to be happy with the time that it takes for them to get their luggage? So then what they did, was to put the gates as far away as possible from the luggage area, so people would get out of the plane, have to walk for 15 minutes, and by the time they would get to the luggage area, their backs were there. Guess what? Everybody was happy. And it seemed a simple thing, but in reality, it’s a really complex thing.
So, I would encourage you to really think about what is the key problem that we’re trying to solve? And what is the key question? So that is my message for you today.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Can we show some appreciation, maybe with an emoji or something to Salvador? Thank you, Salvador. I really appreciate. Thank you Barth and Danielle. I really think that you went to the point. And I love that your storytelling always help us go to the point. And now is my pleasure to introduce Evelyn Orantes, who has dedicated over two decades of her professional career to creating experiences in museums and informal settings, that connect people and celebrate the uniqueness and commonalities of communities. Her consulting approach is informed by her commitment to equity and diversity, and her bilingual and bicultural lived experiences. She has gained recognition in the museum field for community-driven projects, designed through co-creation, these projects bridge a wide array of disparate stakeholders to create authentic and responsive projects. So Evelyn this is your time to mesmerize this with your knowledge in community. Welcome.
Wow. I don’t know about the mesmerizing, but that’s kind of a tall order, but I hope I bring something to the table that you will all find useful, as independent consultants out there. Again my name is Evelyn Orantes, and to be honest with you, I didn’t set out to be a change agent. My origin story is a little bit… And I apologize to friends that are in the audience who have heard this story a million times, but I think it’s worth mentioning, because it really has driven my career for the last 20 years. And I, like many people that we try to entice to come to the museums, didn’t think, well, museum is for me, were for me. I didn’t see myself in them. I thought they were cold, unwelcoming, and if I could be frank, they were only for white people.
And just another aspect of that was that when I had lived in… Well, I came up to Bay Area to go to school at UC Berkeley, and would literally walk to the Oakland Museum of California in front of it, every single day to catch BART, to go to Cal, never setting foot in it. And this must have been three, four years that I was walking right in front of it. It wasn’t until I was taking a Chicana studies course and I was all worked up, and really about reclaiming culture, that I went to the community celebration, the day of the day community celebration there. And I was just completely taken aback by how amazing it was to be welcomed to a space where I felt like I belonged. Where I felt that, not only I could be in community, but community was being formed. Because I ran into neighbors, I would see around the neighborhood.
So, from that point forward, I saw that museums were not only a place where a community could be gathered, and feel welcomed and valued, but they could be places where community was formed and bridges between neighbors and cultures can be built. So I think that’s really been my origin story, and my intention in all the work I’ve done in the last 20 years. So what I thought I’d bring to the table today are a couple of tools that have been really useful for me throughout my practice. And I’ve used them at different periods. I go back to them, I forget about them, I rediscovered them, but I feel like what stood the test of time, and I thought it would be good to bring to the table today for discussion, but also for you to all walk away with some concrete things to use in your practice. Which is something I value in going to webinars and conferences.
So, this first one is the change cycle. And the link will be provided in the resources document that IMP is putting together for all of you. But just to go really quickly through it, if you look at the different pie pieces. It starts from loss, then it goes through doubt, discomfort, discovery, understanding and integration. So these are six of the different points that most people experience when they’re going through change. So inside of the pie pieces, you’re going to see a little bit of the thoughts and the behavior that’s attributed to each of those. A key moment for you to pay attention to is in stage three, that danger zone. So to move through the danger zone, you need to focus on the present and be deliberate about motivating yourself and take best action steps. If not, you can go back all the way to the fear cycle.
So, I was first introduced to this tool when I was going through major change. It was introduced to me by an artist who actually was teaching citizenship classes, and used this tool with their students to talk about change, and talk about changing from one country to another, and really just adapting to some of the changes here in the United States. I’ve used it for myself. She introduced it to me, because I was having a hard time with change at the time at the Oakland Museum who was go… They were going through a major renovation. Since then, it’s been a little bit of an emotional compass that I refer to when I’m looking at group dynamics in a team, or sometimes when checking in with a client. I don’t show up with the cycle, I just try to think about some of their behavior and use it to guide me and my actions in addressing where they’re at in the change. So I’m going to keep moving. I feel like five minutes sneaks up on you.
So, the next tool I want to offer is, designing alliances. And designing alliances, I think has become even more important to me these days because of the need for intentionality of conversations. For me, that was one of the hardest transitions of going from working in a museum to be an independent that, you no longer had those conversations by the cooler or you couldn’t check in right away after a meeting where, maybe there was some funk, between you and a colleague. So this really became something that I had to think about. And especially during COVID, because be working remotely. So how do we design an alliance? Again, there’s a series of questions. So basically this is a concept that’s used in coaching to set the stage for a relationship with a client from the start. And being intentional from the start cultivates this feeling that we are in it together. So I’m going to put in the chat… Let me see, hold on. Here’s hoping that this works. I’m going to put a series of questions that is just an example of what this can look like.
So, this is actually the different kinds of areas that you have to be thoughtful about, how to design intentions. The questions, for example, for the first one, identifying intentions. So some of the questions around that is, what assumptions do you have about each other? Name your highest hopes and dreams for this partnership. Name your worst fears, or lowest dreams for this partnership. So I’m currently using this particular set of questions in a project I’m working on. Well, basically, How Women Lead is a nonprofit organization, not a museum, that is revamping the experience for onboarding. And onboarding is a big, huge, important thing in nonprofits, especially startup nonprofits, because the stronger the onboarding process is, the more retention you have. So can you imagine starting a job and in your first day, you get to share with your boss this conversation about, what are your dreams in this job? What are your fears? So I feel like, these are very key questions to ask in any partnership. And I’m going to go, because my time is over, but happy to talk about it some more during the discussion. Thanks.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Evelyn, we cannot get enough of your knowledge. And we need to make space for Gretchen also to share her experience. But it’s my pleasure now to introduce you to Gretchen Jennings. Gretchen has worked in museums for over 30 years, where she has contributed as project director of a award-winning exhibitions, editor in chief of the Journal of Museums Education and Exhibition that you all know. Also, she lectures at university museum studies programs, edits, museum publications, and collaborates on projects contributing to social justice in the museum field. Her online presence can be found at the Museum Commons and she is a founder of Empathetic Museum Project and a member of MASS Action Initiative. And the consortium, the Museum Group. Gretchen, the floor is yours.
Okay, now I’m unmuted. Thanks, Amparo. And it’s a pleasure to talk with everyone. My presentation is going to be quite practical, but actually, as I was doing it, it gave me some insights into my work with the Empathetic Museum, which I hope to share at the end. In thinking about work that I have done in the past, where I might have had some small impact in changing the culture of a museum or organization, I decided to use my experience in working with the National Council of Science Museums, NCSM in India. I made six visits there between the years, 2009 and 2018 with another colleague, Karen Lee, who was at the Smithsonian at the time. The National Council of Science Museums is a consortium of over 20 museums all over the country. And they were founded in order to encourage a value that’s really important in India, which is what they call the scientific temper.
So in addition to the science museums, NCSM created a master’s degree program in science communication, because as they realized, many of their staff had been bench scientists in laboratories and in companies and they knew their physics and their chemistry very well, but they weren’t very knowledgeable about how the general public can take in complicated scientific information. So the idea of the communications course and of our part in it was to provide what I would call, in the client’s perspective, and as Salvador said, it’s important to identify various aspects of a question or an issue. Their perspective was kind of a basic museum education course that looked at developmental psychology. And that looked at comparisons between formal and informal learning. As we came to India, and we had a chance before we began doing the consulting job to look at a number of museums, our perspective on what the issue was, began to broaden a little bit.
Through our own observations of visitors in various museums, we saw, first of all, that there was a big difference between the ways that students during the week who were science students, interacted with the exhibits, very engagingly. But on the weekends, when it was family groups, such as you see here, often they were not as engaged and they would leave the exhibit after just a few minutes.
So we began to connect perhaps the expertise, but not the knowledge of visitor learning. That was the issue that the NCSM had with our own perspective of the need for testing and working closely with visitors in developing exhibitions. And we found that there was almost no culture of prototyping or formative evaluation within the NCSM structure. And in addition, another systemic perspective revealed itself, when I asked the director general of NCSM, what he thought was the biggest obstacle to prototyping. He said I am. And at first, I thought he was joking and I laughed a bit, but he said, “No, I set very tight schedules. I require quick turnover.” So I realized that my staff, they don’t see that there’s time for putting something out on the floor and testing it. So we knew that we also had to work on the idea of how inexpensive and quick prototyping and testing can be, and how it pays enormous dividends.
I’d also like to mention that this is not an issue only of museums in India. As many of you who know, who’ve worked with museums in our country, and as I certainly know, in working particularly with the history museums that I worked with, curators are very reluctant to give over what they think visitors know from… To ask visitors about how they want to learn. So the next slide, we were able to continue this process of helping the science museums to understand their need to prototype by involving them in the process, teaching them observing skills and interviewing skills, and also providing tools that they could continue to use. Minda Borun’s Family Research, and Beverly Serrell’s Excellent Judges program, which they translated into Hindi.
And the last slide, please. In one of our last visits to India, we went to Dehradun Science Center, which was a brand new museum opened in the foothills of the Himalayas. And it wasn’t opened yet to the public, but in our private tour, we were very excited to see an exhibition about the local area, which is something that we had talked about a lot. Prior knowledge is important to developing exhibits where people can connect what they already know to what they are going to learn. I know my time is over. I just have a couple other things to say. So we found that their label copy was very concise. The exhibit lent itself to group interaction. And we found out that this was intentional when we met with the exhibit director, who said, “Yes, we really try to follow your guidelines in our work.” What this has taught me is that prototyping is really an empathetic practice, because the museum steps into the shoes of the visitor and understands how they learn in order to create exhibitions. Thank you.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Thank you, Gretchen. And I really appreciate you for… Can we all show appreciation for our panelists?
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Super nice. Thank you so much. And I really like the way you put us on a exhibit perspective. Sometimes we think that, change only it’s related to educational programs, or the content. But no, it could be in many levels and in every grade of the institution, and that’s where our amazing panelists have been inviting us to think about. So I invite you all. This is the time for you to pose your question in the chat. Remember to put for everyone, so that will be also good for other people to read your questions. And I would like to start asking the panel, whoever wants to take this question. How do you know when change has been created? How do you identify, Yes, it’s happening. If you build it, they will come. So who wants to take that one?
I can start it. I think for me, honestly, I feel like as a consultant, this has been one of the hardest things to keep track of. In my experience, I’ve been invited to be part of projects, but I haven’t been able to be part of something from start to finish. So it’s more like a surgeon going in and you’re helping them with this piece, and you can follow up later and see what the long-term effects are. But I do feel like, for example, I just did some work with the Huntington, in Southern California. And it was really great that just in the course of a talk, I followed up right away with the education director, and she let me know right away, some of the docents that were creating tension were converted. So, for me, it hasn’t been… Unless there’s an evaluation, I don’t always get to see the change as it happens, except for those moments where it’s right, the change that happens right in the moment. So I’ll leave it at that.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Yeah. And you said it in your talk, it takes time for change. Yes, Salvador.
I would agree with Evelyn that, I think time is the proof of change. When I did a study on communities for the Oakland Museum, our engagement finish, everybody was really happy, everybody was very satisfied with the product. But my question is always, and now what? And in that case, the years later, maybe a couple of years later, I heard from Evelyn actually, that she had been using that report to create some community curated exhibits. And that’s when I knew, okay, that’s exactly the kind of change that we were looking for. But you don’t know it’s a big enigma in a lot of ways.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Thank you, Salvador.
I would agree. I think I addressed a little bit that, we did see… We felt we saw some change, at least in one new museum installation, how much that exists in all of the museums, now, it’s really hard to say. And I haven’t been back to India since that time. Hoping eventually, maybe to return.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Thank you, Gretchen. And there’s a burning question in the chat. And it said, “What happens when the institution, even though they hire you to provoke these change or changes, they are resistant to the change.” And maybe it’s related to the change one and change two, Salvador, I’m just guessing from my own experience, but what do you think Gretchen, Evelyn, Salvador?
Well, the first 10 years of my career were exactly that. I would come, work with a museum, we would all had really high hopes and then nothing would happen. And I would be always really discouraged and wonder. So I’d review multiple different frameworks, models, resistant to change is a big one, et cetera. But I think the piece, the framework that got me much more excited and gave me a lot of really, really good understanding is that systems change in many different ways. And what we’re trying to do is systemic change. But if we focus only on the biggest part of the system, which is how people think about the situation, what are mindsets? What are their ideologies? We have to understand that takes generations to change, but that doesn’t mean that there are no smaller pieces of the system, where you can influence change and leverage those in the direction that you want.
So, for example, how do you measure success, is a huge part of it. When we talk about DEI, for example. The biggest change that we want is for people to stop living, and for the system to stop being racist. That’s a huge thing, but it’s going to take generations and we have to be aware of that. But there are some other pieces, the smaller pieces of the system, like, how do we understand success? Is success only the number of people who cross the doors? For example. That is a big one. And those smaller pieces of the system are the ones I think, in which we need to focus, while we still think about the biggest pieces, the mindsets, and the ideologies, et cetera.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Yeah. Any other thoughts on persistence to change?
I agree with Salvador that, basically we all are involved in systemic change. I do think that understanding that the change we’re looking at is systemic. Even though we can’t necessarily change everything, is still important because it helps us understand how things are linked within the different silos, the curatorial silo, the visitor services silo, that this idea of intersectionality is really something that is true of the whole museum system. And then I also agree that sometimes we have to maybe look at just a small part of it. I’m part of a group that is studying the statements that about 500 museums out of the thousand accredited AAM museums, about half of them made when George Floyd was murdered. And we looked at all 500 and analyzed them according to six criteria, that we set up. The first of which was, does the museum acknowledge its own participation in the racist culture that it is condemning, by saying, it was wrong to kill George Floyd? Is there any understanding of the complicity of the museum?
Only 10% of the 500 talked about that. So I think, that’s kind of a small insight into something that you would think museums would have been on their best behavior. Like, “This is the best thing we can say about the murder of George Floyd,” but only 10% saw that they were connected in some way because they’re part of a racist system. So I think it gives you an inroad into how minuscule the changes have to be in order for them to be large.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
And also keeping the motivation up, when you have these small wins, the motivation is easier to be balanced. And we have a question here in the chat on, if you have any advice or for how to set KPIs, which stands for key performance indicators. Just for those who doesn’t know all the acronyms in this language or in this country. So KPIs, when trying to make museums more equitable. Is there any way to do that? Besides, for example, some frameworks that are being done, like diverse framework, you have a lot of indicators there. But other ones. I’m going to put that resource in the chat, while our panelists answer or give some input. Any indicators of-
I don’t want to do dominate, but in the Empathetic Museum framework, we have one of the characteristics of an empathetic museum, is that it understands its own institutional body language. In other words, all the ways that it communicates to the public without words, or specified statements of diversity. But for example, these statements that came out after the murder of George Floyd, or what does it say on its website? What do you see when you walk in the door, in terms of the staffing? I think those are things that are… They are very practical characteristics of how a museum presents itself to the world, that are very concrete. What do the staff look like? What does the board look like? What do your collections look like? What do your docents look like? Those are indicators, those need to change, and they need to be assessed and changed before… These are some of the parts of the system that reflect what the system is really thinking about.
Yeah. I think just to piggyback and just add a little bit to what Gretchen just said. I feel like those are really key indicators. I’m working with the Shrem Museum, the Manetti Shrem Museum at UC Davis, and they internally… I don’t think they’ve made it public. But they came up with an anti-racism plan, and it is really looking at all those areas that Gretchen spoke of. Like, looking at collections, but looking at also how they schedule exhibitions. What are the conversations that are happening behind those closed doors, about diversifying the exhibitions that they even are going to bring to the table within a five-year tenure timeframe? So I think it’s, how do you start breaking away at the cogs of the machine that go every day? And the hard thing is that some of this stuff is so not glamorous, and is not always evident to the outside world, so it doesn’t feel like you’re moving.
But I think once you start really challenging the practices and looking at the everyday things that are embedded in these systems, I do feel like you’re changing. And I think making note and documenting, we’ve changed, these questions are now different for our interviews. This is how we’re posting jobs, and this is how they’ve changed. This is how we’re looking at collections and how we’re collecting. These are the types of things… So I feel like there’s something for every area at the museum, and I’m thinking museums, we need to dissect them and look at them for their parts, and figure out what are some of those things that we can challenge. And also set yourself up for some easy wins to hopefully keep you inspired and excited about continuing with the harder wins.
And I would also say that we need to recognize that equity is a process and it’s not an outcome. So when you think about key performance indicators, basically you’re looking for outcomes. But we have to acknowledge that, that’s never going to be done. So we’ve been introducing a practice that, it’s called equity process. So in a project, we assign time every month, every quarter, every six months, depending on the type of project, to exclusively reflect about equity issues. Because in the business of projects, we always… Or is very easy to forget that. So we assign one to even three hours to think about, who’s at the table. Who’s not at the table? Why is that? And there’s a number of questions that guide the discussion.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Thank you, Salvador. Very, very important. And Betsy, thank you so much for your comment, regarding all these types of solutions and precisely connects with Salvador’s last comment on, we need to think who’s not at the table, to really define the problem and the solution together. But we have another request in the chat on, interest about hearing some lasting changes that you help make, that may not, the big press release, it says here. Dramatic changes, but that you say, well, this is the state of something when I stepped in, and this is what happen when I stepped out. So beautiful question to our panelists.
I would say again, it’s not easy to say, okay, everything change, and I have proof of this. It takes time for things to settle. But if I think about the museum feel in general, by the time that I started 20 years ago, in which people would ask, why is it important to diversify? And then people started talking about how do we diversify. And I’m talking about issues of DEI, but you can think about this in many different ways. And now, and which it’s an imperative to address DEI, but the most important thing is that there’s budget about that. And there’s positions. A lot of museums are creating DEI positions, which is a huge departure from where we were 20 years ago, in which there was a lot of lip talk, but very little money. There were a few grants here and there to diversify. And now, as Brian Carter, a friend of mine in Washington, with the African American Museum. He says, “What is not in the budget does not exist.”
Amparo Leyman Pino:
It’s true. Salvador, thank you.
Well, I think I would refer to, just the example I already gave, with the Manetti Shrem Museum. And I think if you want to probe deeper, I would speak to Randy Roberts over there. And I can’t even own it as something that I did as a consultant, just because I was part of a larger team and this kind of change is not a single person. It really takes everybody moving things forward. And I think the biggest change I saw was just in the process. Because I’ve been working with them since I became a consultant, which I’ve been very lucky to do. But the biggest change I saw was in how they hired the kinds of curators that could have these really complicated conversations about equity and diversity at the table when they’re talking about their collections and surveying their collection. And what they have and what they don’t have. Also in looking at that five-year plan of exhibitions. And I feel like…
And I’ve heard this more anecdotally from Randy, because I haven’t been at the table, but I feel like that’s such a huge thing for me, because, in my experience, that curatorial tension has always been there. So to see some movement around that is pretty exciting.
I would say, and this is not something that I… This is something I was a part of, not that I did. But in this study that we’re going to be publishing in curator, in the winter 2022 issue of curator on the accountability, it’s called, Nothing Can be Changed Unless it is Faced. We note the fact that in 2020 on the killing of George Floyd, 500 museums did feel it was their obligation to issue some kind of statement, noting that, condemning it, and so forth. In 2014 when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, I remember being on Twitter chats where, there was a Twitter chat started called, Museums, Respond to Ferguson. And there was also a letter that I helped to initiate, that various bloggers sent out. And then this Twitter chat that was started by Ellea Brown and Adrian Russell ran for a couple of years.
And during that Twitter chat, there were many people on the chat who said, “My museum has said to me, I can’t talk about this as a member of the museum.” It’s not our issue, was what museum said. So from near total silence of the museum field in 2014 and early 2015 about Ferguson to, at least 500 museums noting it. There’ve been a number of changes, the founding of museums and race, mass action, empathetic museum, and the Museums Respond to Ferguson. All of those really did move the museum field at least to a greater awareness that they need to be part of the issues of our country.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Thank you, Gretchen. And all our presenters are very humble because they didn’t say all the amazing things that they have done and help with a lot of institutions in many places in the US, to advance the field. So it is time for us to wrap up this panel and this IMPs program. And on behalf of the Independent Museum Professionals network, I want to express our full gratitude to Gretchen, to Evelyn, to Salvador, for sharing with us, your journeys, your experience, as Agents of Change. And to be such an inspiring panel. And if there is still any pressing questions or comments, please put them in the chat. We are very good at having, after the fact, a list of resources, et cetera. Our panelists, I think that we send them these three, four questions or comments, et cetera. We make them available to them. They’re going to respond to all of you.
And remember we have this contact list. If you saw somebody that always you wanted to be friends with, or connect with, this is your opportunity to put your info and get theirs and start a conversation later on. That will be also super good. And please join also our community, it’s free with your AAM membership, simply select IMP as a professional network when joining or renewing your membership or editing your profile. And of course, do not hesitate to reach to us. You have there all our emails and our tweets and such, please contact us and be friends with us. I didn’t put the slide with the Twitter account. There you go. So you can be friends with us as well. And we have many volunteer opportunities and opportunities for you to be also a panelist or to volunteer in many other ways.
We have many ways and we’re very nice people to volunteer with, so please be part of our community. Or if you’re already an IMP and you’re not volunteering yet, guess what? Raise your hand, put it on the contact list, and believe me, we will get in contact with you. And guess what? There are more events coming up. We have a second session on Agents of Change about, how to build position with your client and how to have a strong relationship with them. And then another program called, the IMPs Talk on Promotional Tools. These series are related for you to grow your business as Independent Museum Professional. The first one is on September 22nd, it’s a Thursday. And the second one is on Wednesday, October 26th. So sign up, register. These are upcoming events so you can participate. And of course, we will love to have feedback.
This is a human-curated program, but always open for improvement. So do not hesitate. You answer this survey that we’re putting it on the chat. So click right now, do that. So you have a tab open, right now. So we adjourn. You have that thing in front of you saying, please give feedback to these people and we can learn how they will… As I tell, always on any workshop I facilitate, I don’t get mad if you said the things that didn’t work, because we need to improve and we need your help to improve. So please do it, as soon as we adjourn. Salvador, Gretchen, Evelyn, one final remark?
Have a happy rest of the summer and a safe one.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Huh. That’s a good one. Salvador?
Remember that this is a relay. There’s people coming behind us, so we need to pass the torch at some point.
Self-care. Take care of yourselves. This work is important, but you need to watch your health and your mental health.
Amparo Leyman Pino:
Yeah, very important. Thank you so much. So this is all for today and I wish you all a beautiful, beautiful Monday.