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Navigating Partisan Tensions

Category: On-Demand Programs: Future of Museums

This recording is from the Future of Museums Summit held November 1-2, 2023.

The ongoing nationwide political climate and the evolving “culture wars” are resonating deeply within museums, influencing not only their operations but their very essence. This influence extends to critical discussions surrounding equity measures, disputes over historical interpretations, and differing perspectives on cultural values, among other contentious issues. In this session recording, participants explore these phenomena, engage in open dialogue, and seek to better understand the underlying tensions.

Moderator: Devon Akmon, Director, Michigan State University (MSU) Museum  



Devon Akmon: Good afternoon and welcome to this facilitated discussion, navigating partisan tensions in museum. My name is Devon Akmon. I am the director of the Michigan State University museum. Today I’m joined by my colleagues, Jorge Mr. Zamanillo and Christy Coleman: , both of who have first‑hand knowledge and experience with the theme of our session.

Clearly, as we delve into this discussion today, a couple things right off the top.As we’re navigating this platform, which we’re all learning as we go, you’ll see there’s a chat feature off to your right on your screen.If you have any issues with tech as we’re going through the next 45 minutes or so, please drop a note in there.We have some folks that will help you out there.

Also, if you have questions for one another as audience members, that’s a great place to have that discussion. If you’re interested in posing questions to us over the course of this conversation, we ask that you drop that in the Q&A section, and I will keep an eye on that and do my best to bring questions to the floor for my colleagues.

Today, this conversation is looking critically at politics and its impact in museums. Clearly, the political climate in our nation is high right now. We’re hearing a lot of discussion about this ongoing thing commonly referred to as the cultural wars and how they’re impacting us. It’s not just the operational aspect of our museums, but the assets of our museums. This influence is extending into discussions around important themes, equity, dispute over historical interpretations, different perspectives, and other issues.

Today, we’re going to delve into some of this phenomenon, open some dialogue, just between three peers, and seek to better understand this underlying issue. We’ve got 45 minutes. We’re clearly not going to solve the issues of the world here, but we know that this is another kind of longer journey that’s exploring this theme as it’s emerging at conferences, and I think we’ll see a lot more of it over the next year or two.

With that context in mind, let’s introduce our colleagues who will shed some light on the complex dynamics ahead.Christy Coleman, please introduce yourself.

Christy Coleman: I’m Christy Coleman. I’m currently serving as the executive director in Williamsburg, Virginia. We operate James town settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. And this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. We seem to have these cyclical periods where the conversations around whose history, what history, when history. It is cyclical, and it’s almost generational.

So I have a few perspectives on that, both as sort of how it played out on the frontlines, what I’ve experienced as a leader of museums.


Jorge Zamanillo: I’m the founder director of the national museum of Latinos.I joined about a year and a half ago, and we’ve been tasked to build a new museum.It’s a good ten‑or 12‑year project.It’s a long‑term project.Before this, I was in the history of Miami, museum in down south Florida for about 21 years, last 6 as executive director. Coming from a community-based museum to a national museum.

Devon Akmon: I started this museum field in 2005 at the American Arab national museum and worked there as a curator director. And just how things evolved in those 13 years versus where wee today, how is that different ‑‑ and I’m going to popcorn these out. Feel free for either of you to respond.

How do things feel different in terms of temperature and what we’ve seen maybe 20 years ago versus today and its impact?

Christy Coleman: It feels different.It is ‑‑ what feels different ‑‑ the first time that I sort of felt this, right, was when, back in the 90s, yeah, and it was when the maple exhibit came out.It was when the Enola Gay was at the Smithsonian and was being reinterpreted as well in terms of the impact of that atomic bomb being dropped on Japan and its impact on the people, not just sort of this heroic thing; right?

And that was the first time we saw I think in a concerted effort to not necessarily ‑‑ but the punish you if you did the wrong narrative. Congress started looking at funding levels for arts and humanities. Smithsonian went through craziness around that time. I think Larry Smalls was still the secretary then. And it was this whole thing about forcing them to do private fundraising because tax dollars should not be spent on these sort of controversial, non‑celebratory elements of history. So that was sort of the first time we saw that shift.

Then what was interesting was also around that time we saw critical examinations of the founders was just beginning to rollout. You know, we had the estate slave auction, which made sort of international news at Colonial Williamsburg when I was there. And from that, we started to see institutions, particularly presidential sites or large plantation sites, deciding that it was now or never in terms of interpreting the history of the enslaved on those properties and what that meant, or beginning the research into that because so many of the ‑‑ the favorite mantra is, well, we just don’t know enough about those people to talk about them.

And then you saw the investments, what was the manifestation of all of that research into people had been ‑‑ people, history, cultures that had been disenfranchised, deliberately removed, obfuscated, what have you, they’ve come into the fork in historic interpretation. And I think what makes things so vastly different now is it isn’t just a threat to potential funding. It is a concerted effort to make sure that this work is not carry over into the K through 12 more than it already has.

So, it’s a multiple front. It is where there’s opportunity or control over any state funding that often can kind of threaten depending on where you are. It can ‑‑ it has resulted in complete revision of state standards of learnings across the country to remove these histories and stories over the last 30 years.

So that part of it is exceptionally different.And it just feels more concerted versus isolated; right?It just feels like it is a concerted effort across the board, across the country, to do these kinds of things, and I just find it ‑‑ it’s disturbing is what it is, obviously.But it is the reality.And so, the question becomes, how do you navigate that?Which is the fundamental question.

Devon Akmon: Jorge, anything to add on that?

Jorge Zamanillo: I was listening to a program recently, and it was a New York Times writer on there. He had a great quote. He said something to the effect of, you know, we’re living in the middle of some sort of vast emotional relational, spiritual crisis. People have lost the ability to see and understand each other, thus producing a culture that can be brutalizing and isolating. It’s so true. I’m used to the politics. I’m from Florida. Moving to DC, I knew there would be some politics, but it’s every day. And it’s not just, you know, riding a party line or having certain beliefs, which we want to represent both sides of the story.

It’s more about just personal struggle that people are having with each other. And it’s really divided our communities, especially Latinos communities across the U.S. and that’s the challenge.

How do we get over that?One thing you’re saying, well, it says politics.And another thing, I don’t like you or I don’t want this, I don’t want that, what you’re doing is wrong or right.That’s the challenge that we’re facing now.

Devon Akmon: You know, one other thing I’ll just add I think to the great comments both of you gave is just another by‑product of our time. We’ve seen kind of the implosion of the media industry as it was 20 years ago. And we’re now using social platforms much more frequently and commonly, which kind of just adds to the discourse. We see how quickly ‑‑ we see that in our field, politics at large, how quickly something can just go from 0 to 60 and that impacts discussions and everything. We’re seeing that right now with some major geopolitical issues as well.

So, I can’t help but wonder you know what that role is as we continue to navigate forward with these platforms and adding just another layer to the rich narrative that’s happening.

Well, you know, you talked to Jorge about representation. Even within a community, right, we always think what makes up communities, right, and we have diversity even within the communities that we serve. And that’s very much the plural communities we serve as institutions and museums. We’ve long stood as eventually bastion, so to speak, of preservation, education, and really representing that tapestry, giving kind of the complexities of those roles that we serve as museums, what do you think in terms of the interpretive approaches that can be crafted within our institutions and as a field to both work towards getting history right and also minimize this kind of accusations as though we’re simply aiming to distort or politically revise history?

Thoughts on that?That seems to be at the crux of so much that’s happening right now.

Jorge Zamanillo: The one we were tackling and trying to address is there’s work we need to do either way when we build a national museum. It’s the community involvement. It’s engaging communities across the U.S. in their hometowns, listening circles, town hall meetings, just trying to get their perspective. And it’s eye opening. In the past year, we’ve visited over 65 cities, 22 states in four months, meeting with museums and community groups and leaders in community, everyday people. And its eye opening, what their values are, the things that are important to them. And it’s very regional. It’s very local. So, when you’re trying to craft a national story, how do you do that? How do you find those shared experiences and commonalities? How do we tell a story in a 300,000‑square foot museum versus on a small community level? It’s a big task.

But we’ve heard from people. Our values are faith and freedom and family and things that are important to us. Whether they’re democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative, there are some commonalities that we’ve seen. So, we need to figure out how do you interpret that? How do you use that in this program that we’re create something what methods of engagement? It’s going to be a challenge for us.

And I’m coming from a museum where we were more nimble and quick and we could react.And now I’m looking at how do I plan for a museum that’s ten or 12 years ago, and how do I know where that will be in 12 years?How do I know the methods of interpretation?That’s what we’re tasked with, and it’s challenging.

Devon Akmon: Christy, what are your thoughts?

Christy Coleman: I think there are a couple things. I love that you mentioned being nimble. We often don’t think that with our static spaces that we can be nimble and how we think about them or how we interpret them. And it’s teaching ourselves and following the kinds of ‑‑ that enable to us create sort of, you know, the methodology of being able to say it shouldn’t take us five years to envision something new if we’ve got something that’s happening in the immediate.

I’ve mentioned this before. One of the things that was so impressive to me when it was still around was the museum. They could turnaround an exhibit in roughly 24 hours because they wanted to be ‑‑ they wanted to sort nimbleness, so they created within their sort of a template of how to do that. And they recognized and acknowledged on the front end, right, this is the first draft of history.

Well, you know, in our work, you know, we are ‑‑ used to be where the scholarship would come out. It would take maybe five if we were fast, right, but usually five to ten years before we even got that into a gallery. And then it took another five years or so before it ever made it to a textbook. Things are a lot faster, as you mentioned, Devon. We’ve got information at our fingertips all the time and we also have self-curated content, which is a problem.

A person says, well, I did research on that.You know, which basically meant they went online, and they started pushing in things and then started pulling those things that fit their bias right off the bat instead of looking at the totality of the evidence.So, they’re able to craft.When they come into our institutions, they’re challenging us in that way.

And they are ‑‑ for our ‑‑ I think about our frontline folks all the time with this. In that, you know, there are people who were coming to them with the expectation that you’re going to either reinforce me or I am prepared to challenge you and what you tell me in this museum space. And the best way I can challenge you is to tell you that you’re woke or to tell you that you are pushing a different kind of agenda or ‑‑ and generally speak, visitors are not that over ‑‑ there are some who are, without question, and we’re probably seeing more of that sense of empowerment because people, in addition to the sort of self-curated content space, they’re all in ideological bubbles in a way that a generation ago didn’t even exist.

; right? We trusted our news sources. We had three solid ones, and then three other ones on the side that, if you had cable, you could watch. Now, you know, you can ‑‑ the so‑called sources, journalistic sources ‑‑ and herein lies the difference. There’s another phenomenon that’s impacting all of this too. It also occurred in the 80s and 90s, which we are definitely feeling the impact of, and that is the decision by major networks that in order to compete with the rising cable, that they decided to monetize their news operations instead of all of the other entertainment of that network paying for the news.

So now they had to be ‑‑ you know, now they had to have a spin or that special ‑‑ you know, and we used to get these ‑‑ if you remember in the early 2000s, we have this investigative report on, you know, contact Annie so and so and we’ll go after your landlord it. Became this really adversarial versus journalistic. This is what’s happening, this is why, these are the voices we’re listening to. And it became something else.

So, all of this is impactful.Basis, I can tell you right now, in our museum spaces, we’re not just dealing with the history that we’re trying to teach.We’re dealing with all of the stuff that people are bringing to us.With whatever memory they had when they came in the fourth grade, and they expect the experience to have nostalgically remembered it for their kids; right?

In some cases, they’re expecting, you know, or worse, for those of you who may have been watching Joe McGill right before this session, where he talked about how you know there are people who, you know, just out and out dismiss atrocities happening; right? Dismiss atrocity in our nation’s past. Oh, well, but we still ended up being the greatest nation on earth. Because of that, we need to push those things aside, which is really quite telling and is insulting. Particularly coloring their allies or religious mournings.

This is not the case. It’s not dismissive. It’s a part of who we are. And I think ‑‑ and I’ll start talking, because this is something that is constantly in my head these days. To me, if you’re a thoughtful leader, a thoughtful interpreter, you’ve got all of that in mind.

So that’s why I think, from that standpoint, a dialogic approach with your visitor is far more effective than say, an inquiry method or widget making methodology. And, you know, the widget making is this is what I’m making; let me show you how it’s done.

I think when we’re able to engage on a dialogue, the visitors will essentially tell us. And what you find is, as Jorge said, everybody basically has the same needs and desires. They want to have a value. They care about their families. They care about, you know, their place in the world. And so, we’re in this environment where everybody wants to feed on fear, that somebody’s going to take something from you in your self-identity versus really looking at the expansiveness that becomes available to us in these stories, in this storytelling, right, to make that work.

And so, I’ll stop there because ‑‑ and I know you’ve got a bunch of other questions for us.

Devon Akmon: That was really great. Thanks for that. There’s so much to unpack. There’s a thread that I think is super important, and it’s something that I’m struggling with. So, I’m deeply selfish in wanting to hear your thoughts. Jorge, you talked about the community‑based work. I come out of that too. I happen how brilliant that is. I used to call it the beautiful headache. There’s days when you work and come home, and it’s like, this is what museums are all about. There’s days when you’re hitting the friction and it’s like what are we doing? It’s bananas.

And then Christy you talked about the frontline staff. It could be literally our visitor services, the guards who work ‑‑ whomever.

Are often the ones, as you mentioned, who get the brunt of it. So, in both instances, it’s staff at different levels getting a lot of friction. Sure, as leaders, we get the angry phone calls and letters and stuff like that, but we’re not on the floor, dealing at the same level as the staff.

And I’m wondering, from your experiences, what are some tactics to empower and bolden and give agency to staff to navigate these, what can we learn from them as administrators to do better practices navigating this?We’re supposedly trusted institutions, but that doesn’t alleviate us on these frictions.

Jorge Zamanillo: It’s a little different for me here because we don’t have a museum yet. We have a gallery and American history, but based on experiences in the fast, it was critical to get visitor services, front of house staff involved in all staff meetings, make sure we had weekly trainings, biweekly trainings, at least, regarding content coming up, exhibitions, because they did.

I remember three years ago when we started three years ago when we started thinking about how we use our permanent exhibit. We placed statements in three languages ‑‑ English, Spanish, and creole ‑‑ in our galleries, saying we know we have issues. We’re omitting this permanent exhibit that was built in 1984. And there’s a lot of things we need to change and there’s no way we’re going to do it overnight.

So, we were up front in saying, these are the issues; these are the ways we’ll address it; a timeline; and how we’re going to get there.

And it relieved a lot of the pressure from the front-end staff. They felt like they were dealing with it every day.

As most of the staff concentrates on building new exhibits and new shows, you’re stuck in a process where you have to produce two or three show as year and be nimble and quick, and you don’t may attention to the show that’s being shown every day. And the people working the floor and the guards, and the front desk are the ones that hear it every day. So, I know our education team did a great job back then to making sure they had the right training, they were listening to them, the comments were being addressed, and not putting them in that spot.

And I see that every day here in the Smithsonian with 21 different units, 19 museums. It happens. And unfortunately, when you have millions of visitors coming through a year, it’s not the same as ten or 15 or 20. It’s much hard to address on a larger scale. But it’s something to look into. It’s definitely, as you think about bailing a new museum, having you address that.

But Christy, I’d love your input because I know you’re actively doing it.

Christy Coleman: The first thing you have to do is make sure the staff understands that the all of what we’re doing is based on a mission. And for us, there’s an additional piece in terms of show the history of our institution. And the this isn’t meant as a complaint necessarily, but it was operated out of the notion ‑‑ especially someplace that’s seeing half a million visitors a year, that our goal is to keep the visitor happy. You know, customer service was more akin to an attraction per se.

So having to doing the kind of training exercises that we offer to our teams now on these ideas and just talking to them candidly and them knowing that I, as their director, I know them. I mean, we had a situation not too long ago where one of our museum guides was taking a tour through with a private religious school who had been here many years before the tour ‑‑ the tour hadn’t changed that dramatically, but it was greater discussion about what was happening with the indigenous and the arrival of the Africans. And apparently the educator, the chaperon teacher that was with them, you know, basically told them, well, that’s not what I’m here for. I only want to hear about the English because that’s all that matters.

They sent one of their children in with our guide, and fortunately the guide went on with the tour that they were going give anyway. Well, I got a letter. I got a letter and the email, and the email was copied to the governor’s office, the secretary of education, accusing us of not being true to the state’s new SOL standards. Which we helped to navigate that mess to make sure that it was accurate, historically accurate. In the midst of that, our team had been working on that iteration for years.

In that particular instance, my response to the governor’s office and the secretary of education and that educator all together was this is our mission, and this is the experience that we teach and this was made clear to you when you booked your tour; right? So, it was important that the staff knew that I had their back on this.

Now, I’m not encouraging it, and I don’t want them arguing with a visitor, but that’s where the dialogic comes in. If someone says to them, well, it’s only the English perspective that matters. Then the dialogic says, really, tell me why it is you think that way. And then your response is, based on the scholarship and the historical record, this did happen an impact, and this is how.

How do you think that would ‑‑ that works now that you understand this additional piece? And so, it begins a conversation.

Do we always have time? Not necessarily, but it provides an opportunity for the interpreter and that front person to say I’d love to discuss this more with you, and either here’s my card or feel free to call us. We’ll be happy to talk this through with you, but we need to keep going.

I went on a tour recently because I love Monticello too. I love all of our historic sites; right? And I went on one of their tours, and you talk about a place that has had major upheaval in terms of its story, right, because the Hemings and the grangers and all of that are so intricately tied into the interpretation of Monticello as the house and Jefferson the man. And they have done an extraordinary job on that tour.

And occasionally there are individuals who will, you know ‑‑ who will challenge that and will say things that are absolutely outrageous. And what do you do? And their decision is similar to mine. We support our teams. We support our teams.

Again, we don’t want folks arguing when they’re doing those tours. But to engage in a dialogue about that is extremely helpful. When it comes to the galleries itself, an example of sort of change over time is that we have some bronzes that were part of 1897 expedition into Benin by the English and, you know, we learned that our pieces were, in fact, a part of that and, you know, during the ‑‑ and so in addition to reaching out to the appropriate parties in Nigeria and the Nigerian embassy and the whole database that’s being developed around that, she had to change the signage for those objects to express that.

So, we can ‑‑ that’s what I’m talking about.There’s some templates that we can use.Just because it’s on the wall doesn’t mean we can’t take it down and redo that didactic.It doesn’t mean that we can’t add something supplemental to that didactic.You see what I’m saying?This idea that it’s static and forever, we don’t have that luxury anymore.We simply don’t.We simply don’t.

Devon Akmon: Thank you. I actually touched on I think two or three questions that were in the Q&A, one asking very much to kind of illuminate changes to text and another to kind of a more dialogical model. I’ll simply add, just on our end, we were using something a little different. It’s not too far akin to what you see the Exploratorium. We have our own model, but we’re on a university campus so they’re undergraduates who were paid. And their entire job is to facilitate conversation on our exhibitions, the good, bad, ugly, climate, food security. And it’s very much that style of having dialogue as an entry point.

And we’re finding that’s very much disarming when you come in and begin with a conversation about instead of this is what a label says and this is what you should think, but instead, what are you thinking and feeling? Let’s have a conversation as ‑‑

Christy Coleman: Rights. It is very disarming, I think, when you have that approach with someone who is so diametrically different. Now, it is much harder when you are faced with someone who is just an out and out bigot who is intent on creating friction. It’s a very rare thing, but it does happen.

And in those cases, we have every right to ask you to kindly take yourself somewhere else; right? I mean, that’s the other thing. We’re not going to allow your staff to be beat up by a visitor. Be went through this whole thing here at James town. Maybe not quite a year ago.

Where we were having conversations internal about standards on codes of conduct for visitors and how we’re going to interact with our visitors.

And we created basically a visitor code of conduct in terms of what the expectations were around four key ideas.And we put them on all the doors of our buildings; right?

It’s not, you know, we’re here to understand each other.We’re here to build empathy.We’re here to be respectful.And does it work?I guess.I think it does.I think it does.But, again, we’re in this different space, that if someone chooses to be confrontational, we have to choose to be conversational.

Devon Akmon: Let me ask a question. This is coming from the Q&A, and I think this is a good point to interject it.

There’s a colleague in the audience who is asking are there knee specific trainings that you’ve done with your staff? Clearly, you’re training on a dialogical model of having those conversations. Jorge, anything from you? And similar to that question, there’s just a note that we need to do some field‑wide research on what language we use and how we share that back out.

So, is there anything you’re doing with your staff specifically, training‑wise?

Christy Coleman: For us, we’ve brought in some folks. We did bring in the international coalition. We’ve works with others on implicit bias training. The dialogic piece, we’ve brought in partner institutions for that. Because we didn’t always have the expertise on our ‑‑ internally. So, you know, and it was very different. And so that’s what we’ve done.

EDCOM used to be an amazing place for history museum folks to gather to talk about these things and the latest methodologies and the research that supports those ‑‑ that work. Since it has been somewhat dismantled since AM is rethinking its affinity groups, I’m not sure. But what I can say is there’s also the national association for interpretation does a good job with these different styles. And bringing the training to you.

So, there are ‑‑ there are resources available to you.There’s tons of information in the AAM bookstore on some of these latest things too.There’s a lot there.ASLH also has some extraordinary resources that ‑‑ most of which are free.That can connect you with individuals that can come to your site and help you in your teams.

Jorge Zamanillo: We had good luck with consultants coming in.I think what was most critical to helping us get over that hurdle was how do you have difficult conversations, right, and even with the staff?And it all came down to having respect.You can engage with visitors, as long as they’re respectful.The minute you lose that, it all goes downhill pretty fast.And I think that’s ‑‑ even when I’m meeting with members of Congress and anybody who might have a critique on the work we’re doing, as long as you’re coming from a respectful place and you can have that open dialogue, it’s so important.The minute you lose that, there’s just no point in having that conversation anymore.

Devon Akmon: A question for you two on this. We’ve talked a lot about staff and the visitor experience in that regard. One of the things we as a field talk a lot about is social infrastructure. We talk about a museum as a vital third place at a time with the decline of third places and how we leverage assets to facilitate community.

Particularly I think ‑‑ this really spans across all museums, but I think it’s been made most evident in art and science museums, particularly art museums the past several years, where you’re actually seeing political demonstration happening, whether it’s around opioids and controversial board members and climate changes and we’re seeing these outbursts on art.

So ‑‑ and then we see in the performing arts side. We saw it after black lives matter in 2020 and the open your lobby push for performing arts menus, especially in Washington, DC.

To that end, as we’re talking about kind of the political climate of our times and our social infrastructure, any thoughts on how we should, as institutions, should address acts of rebellion or protest within the physical space without suppressing voices or even diminishing the message but also being the stewards, we’re supposed to be?

It’s very complicated.We could have a whole two‑hour conversation on this, but any thoughts about our spaces and how we should or shouldn’t hold those for demonstration within our walls?

Jorge Zamanillo: That’s interesting. You’re demonstrating diagnoses seeking an audience. You’re seeking to have ‑‑ see your voice being heard. So, it’s not too uncommon from other people that want to be involved, providing that safe space, providing a venue for that conversation. I wouldn’t go to the extreme of destroying art or gluing my hand to a painting, but it’s happened here, and you’ve seen it a few times in the past also.

So, I don’t have an answer about it, but in thinking about building a museum, I want to make sure, for instance, that we have a plaza. It’s very common in Latin American countries. Many people expect to have this safe space, maybe an outdoor plaza, where you can gather and have a voice. And it could be a demonstration a peaceful demonstration, it could be, you know, a pulpit for somebody to get up and actually speak and have a voice about something they believe in.

So, when thinking of designing a new museum, we’re taking that into consideration. Again, does a museum ‑‑ is a museum even inviting enough for members of our Latino community to visit? Do they feel like it’s going to be a government building in DC are they may think it is a place and they enter, they may not have the same rights as other people? Are they undocumented? These are all things we’re taking into consideration because that is going to come up. We know people would prefer doing something outside, a program outside for instance. And that might solve that problem.

When you have food options, do you have to come inside?Can you have a window?Can you order from outside?In other words, can you participate and enjoy the museum in a different manner?So I think it’s going back to your questions about providing spaces where these voices can be heard, maybe.

Christy Coleman: I think this is where sort of community engagement takes on a different look.We tend to treat community engagement as transactional rather than relationships.And as you build relationships with one’s community, I think we end up seeing less tolerance, for lack of a better term, for anybody coming into that space to be disrespective.

Meaning if you engage in a dialogue along the way, and you’re building consistent relationship with community, you’re less likely to see that happen. I think about, you know, you were mentioning black lives matter. You know, I was thinking about the libraries. You know, at the time, when everything was kicking off in Ferguson and other cities, and a lot of our library peers kept their doors open for 24 hours, give people places where they could get information, clean up, do whatever they had to do. And none of them were vandalized.

None of them had anything happen. And yet museums we have this other piece of us that is like we ever to lock everything down and protect it or we have to put it behind a Plexi or we have to put up expansions. Because, yes, we do have a preservation role, but we also have to be mindful of the things that the we have, what they actually say, or what we are trying to say with them.

And so, you know, our neighbor, also during black lives matter, did have a couple of outbuildings that had been ‑‑ where somebody attempted to set them on fire because it was, you know, a place where slavery occurred or a place where the atrocities occurred.

And there was potential for that for us at James town as the, you know, association from the landing to the first enslaved Africans into British North America were being brought here; right? And so, we did get some calls of security concerns about that, and we were watchful. But fortunately, nothing really happened because you get this interesting mix between the sacred and the obscene.

And so, it just so happens that, you know, it was able to be tamped down before anything significant happened in our spaces. But it’s a reality. And I can’t help but believe that, if, again, if you are ‑‑ I don’t know if it’s more of a problem for places that are free to the public, or Places that you’ve got to pay to go in there.

I don’t know if it’s any different because most of those types of things that I’m aware of like that have occurred in venues that are generally free to the public.I could be wrong, but I think The Louvre had an incident.You know, we’ve certainly had a couple incidents at the met and so forth.And there are elements of their museum experience that are absolutely free to the public.

Devon Akmon: Yep. I think that’s so true, and I see that a lot. I’m seeing that kind of in the chat and other places. People are saying, yeah, we really need to have more dialogue with our peers in the libraries. Libraries are place where people who are unhoused often go, more so than museums. There are places people go now for things like overdosing, all kinds of things are happening in the libraries by ways by virtue of what they do and how they serve and the virtue that they’re free. Of course, they’re not immune to some of the things we deal with as well.

So, we are already at time already and the amount of comments in the comment section is really robust. And Illinois just reiterate something we said at the top of the discussion is that this is a very big discussion. It’s something we’re all grappling with. And it will continue to take shape over the months and probably years to come.

I really want to thank the two of you.I’ve admired your work and what you do and for being so open and honest.It’s always hard to share sometimes these kinds of things.You’ve got to be a little vulnerable putting yourself out there.So, thank you both for your contributions today.Any final words for our audience before we depart here?

Jorge Zamanillo: Stay true to your mission.Stay true to your voice.You can do both things, without censoring, you can share stories and factual and balanced but make sure you have integrity to go forward.

Devon Akmon: Thank you.Christy?

Christy Coleman: I echo that.

Devon Akmon: Thank you all. It’s been a pleasure. We hope you enjoy the remainder of the future museum Summit. Be well.

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