Value of Systemic Change
Systemic change is vital to long-term, genuine progress
Diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion are part of a wider discussion about power and privilege. Not only can museums encourage diversity, they can stop discouraging diversity. This focus on what museums can actively and intentionally do—or avoid doing—is at the heart of systemic change.
The most effective tools for creating systemic change will vary according to each museum’s size, budget, mission, and collections. However, addressing issues of power and unequal access within the workplace is critical. A diverse board and staff is a logical output of becoming more accessible, inclusive, and equitable.
Museum boards, directors, and staff should ask the following questions across functions and areas of practice:
- Does the museum have an institution-wide diversity plan?
- How do collections, exhibitions, and research reflect marginalized communities?
- With whom does the museum partner?
- Does the museum work vendors who are members of underrepresented groups?
- How do we reach those who aren’t supportive of equity?
Broadening the pathways to employment helps create systemic change in the museum workplace. If unpaid internships are a prerequisite for gaining the experience and connections needed to secure a museum job, then people who can afford to work for free will rise to the top of the candidate pool.
The AAM LGBTQ Welcoming Guidelines for Museums exemplify how museums can effect systemic change to promote the equitable inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities in all facets of museum operations. Modeled on the AAM Standards of Excellence, these guidelines outline strategies for museums to support LGBTQ inclusion at the structural level. You can learn more about the guidelines and the work of the LGBTQ Alliance Professional Network here.
Call to action:
You can discuss the questions listed above in your staff and board retreats or in team meetings. If you don’t do so already, you can collect demographic information about your board, staff, and visitors to benchmark inclusion in your museum and measure change over time.