MASSAction 2017: Decentering Whiteness

How to transform museums into places of greater inclusion and equity?  This is the key question of the MASSAction (Museum as Site for Social Action) initiative, begun in 2016 and coordinated out of the Minneapolis Institute of Art.     A few weeks ago 36 museums (art, history, science) from across the country gathered for…

The Idea of Museum Neutrality: Where Did it Come From?

Where is Part 2? In a post written on March 2, 2017, Stayin’ Alive, Part 1: Advocacy, I described efforts by the American Alliance of Museums, on behalf of the larger US museum community, to advocate for continued government funding of museums and cultural institutions in the face of a proposed Trump budget.  As implied…

The Naive* Display of Cultural Symbols

I know when someone that’s not you tries to tell your story, especially when you don’t look like the person who’s telling your story, they’re gonna screw it up!  And the only way to have it right is to have them as closely involved as possible. Comedian and writer Aziz Ansari, Master of None I…

Play is the “Content” in Children’s Museums

One of my favorite blogs is Museum Questions, posted most Mondays by Rebecca Herz.  I read her February 27, 2017 post, “Why Are Children’s Museums Museums?”  with even greater interest than usual for a couple of reasons: First, during the late 1980s into the 1990s–the period that Rebecca is examining in her post–I was involved developing…

Diversity and Inclusion: Thinking Systemically

What is thinking systemically? A system, as we know, is a group of interrelated and interconnected parts, such that what happens to one has an impact on all.  I’ve been noticing, in all kinds of media, references to the importance of examining problems from a systemic point of view, i.e. recognizing that a problem is…

Immigration Pop Up Museum: A Small, Powerful Voice

In January, 2016, I organized and taught a two-week seminar with Monica Montgomery called Museums Are Us. The seminar was one of the on-site courses offered as part of the Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Program.  We partnered with the DC Public Library to present a pop up museum on the themes of Home and…

Warming our Hands Before the Fire of Life

  Since the November 2016 elections I have been asking myself how to be, live, and work in a world that appears to sanction autocracy, intolerance, and racism (both veiled and unveiled).  If I had the answer I think I could bottle and sell it!  Yet, over the past past eight weeks I have become aware…

Can Museums Be Empathetic? Yes!

In a December 6, 2016 post Museum Geek blogger Suse Cairns asked this question: Can institutions be empathetic?  My EM colleagues and I have been discussing the many thoughtful  questions Suse has raised.  Following is our response.  We believe that it is possible for institutions such as museums to be empathetic, and below we outline…

MUSEUMS AND RACE: LANGUAGE PRIMER #3, ON “OPPRESSION”

  [We propose a paradigm] for how museums address their responsibility for fair and inclusive staffing, collections, and interpretation, and equality of access to their resources. This paradigm will examine a vocabulary and a set of theories not usually found in current museum discourse: Oppression: identifying the complex – and too often unacknowledged – ways in…