So to get us started, I want to share this quote I often use in some of the talks I give
from CarlosTortolero who's the founding executive director
of the National Museum of Mexican art here in Chicago, "The museum field, like society at large,
has a problem with racism and must face up to it we need to admit that we have a problem. Then and
only then can we move forward." So in response to those words there's a variety of ways we can
start. I picked tonight starting with terminology just to make sure people understand what we're
talking about especially as we're kicking off this series, and to set the stage. So Ben, could you
walk us through a little bit of terminology around diversity, equity, accessibility, inclusion,
throw in any other keywords you think we need to know along the way to kick us off.
>>Yeah absolutely. I'll try to keep this brief but I think it's good at least to have
a jumping off point for a definition and you know certainly you, Noelle, Ashley, Cinnamon, if--
if you feel like you know there are different aspects of these terms that you want to bring
forward you know let's do that because I think you have to, you know, however you view these terms
it's good to establish a shared vocabulary, a shared understanding in your organization.
We just went through a strategic planning process and it was led by my colleague Dina
Bailey from Mountaintop Vision and she did that for us and it was very helpful.
And you know it certainly makes for a good conversation for a leadership
team. So diversity, equity, access, and inclusion I really see access, inclusion,
and equity in a slightly different category than diversity. Diversity is sort of a state of being.
You know, we know from natural history and biology that diverse ecosystems are resilient ecosystems.
And I think that that's true also for organizations and and groups of people.
And so the goal is to be working in a context of people who bring, have sort of different aspects
of individual or group identity because they will be bringing lived histories and experiences
and awarenesses that are unique to that worldview and perspective. And so your organization will be
more resilient, more sustainable, and stronger in a lot of ways when sort of the-- when when they're
diverse. Equity is really about you know, it's it's a concept that's connected to the concept of
equality. But, I think you know many of us have probably seen that illustration where you have
a five foot fence and a six foot person and a five foot person and a four foot person and
three boxes, and the sort of equal distribution is one box a piece but the the distribution that
really allows everyone to see over the fence is that the four-foot person has two boxes, the five
person has one and the six-foot person doesn't need one. And that just really acknowledges the
fact that we all start from different places that there's no such thing as a level playing field.
When we're looking at our field or our sort of any context for the ways in which people
are working together and so equity recognizes that and it requires you to provide resources
that will allow everyone to achieve that outcome, that same outcome. But those resources will often
look different based on where people are entering. Access is really about
lowering that threshold to participation. So whether that's a physical threshold or
a psychological one, or an intellectual one, or a class-based one, an economic one,
you know access is really about ensuring that people can participate no matter
what, you know, from from any place or from any-- any situation. And inclusion is really
at the heart of the work that we need to see shift. Inclusive leadership,
inclusion as sort of an organizational reality means
ensuring not just that you are bringing sort of a diverse group of people into an organization,
but that you are providing a context where leadership, access to leadership,
access to power, where power is shared, you know where-- where listening is happening,
where learning is happening. Inclusion is the hardest work. There's sort of that first level
of it which is some of what we're doing today, you know diversity trainings, you know looking
at HR policies, and making sure that you can have diverse pools of candidates, bringing in diverse
people from diverse backgrounds or diverse identities into an organization. But none of that
will get you to that place where you are really a thriving diverse ecosystem without the practice
of inclusion, which is a practice of sharing power, looking at your own privileges, and making
space for-- for perspectives and individuals who didn't traditionally have access to that before.
>>Great. So now that we have a few terms laid down for everyone's shared understanding,
I want Noelle to take us into the heart of this conversation
which was really set up by Carlos's quote that I shared. Tell us a little bit about how the
work we're up to the, how the work you're wanting to do and can do is anti-racist.
Can you talk about the relationship between museums and race; what does that look like?
>>Oh, yeah, so when yousent me this question I was like,
yeah that's not a hard question to answer. At all, right?
I think when, you know and anti-racism has recently recently been in the lexicon quite a bit,
a lotof people are familiar with Ibram X. Kendi's work, "How to Be an Anti-Racist,"
which really unpacks the terminology and things like that. At a very basic level, anti-racism
are policies and practices that go against what we define as racism. And it's more than just if
we look at what Ben was talking about. It's it's actively engaging in those activities on a regular
basis; they become symbiotic to your organization. Now, when we look at the legacy of museums
and race it's a little complicated, right? If we're if we want to be 110% honest with ourselves,
part of the way that our our field got started was through the exploitation of people. [audio cutout]
There we go, sorry about that, of people's culture it was the exploitation of people's cultures and
practices. And so now we are seeing a shift, but part of the trouble with that shift is that it's
not, by and large it's not an active engagement, right? People, there was a time and then some
depending on the type of museum you, you're in, some people that think that they're engaging in
anti-racism by hiring a non-white individual. Well, that non-white individual is the only
non-white individual in your organization, have you done something, yes. But have you actively
engaged in anti-racist practice and policies, no. And if that person is put upon to always
have to do with every diversity program, right, and you don't give them access to a budget that
sustains it, that's part of it. The other part is how you tell the story the interpretation. The
easiest way for me to illustrate that is that when people think of Memphis they think of a couple of
things. One of them is is Elvis, and we won't touch that. That's a whole other conversation,
but the other is the assassination of Dr. King. But if you think of Memphis and civil rights in
Memphis and your immediate interpretation of that is looking at James Earl Ray, and that's the only
conversation that you've had, you have centered white maleness in the conversation. And the voices
that you have denied are the voices of the sanitation workers, the two men Robert Walker
and Echol Cole who were tragically killed, who launched, whose death launched the sanitation
strike which brought Dr. King to Memphis. It ignores the work of Jim Lawson, it ignores the
work of Cordelia Crenshaw. Those are the active ways that you're doing that. If you relegate
artists of color to a corner in your institution rather than integrating them into the whole story,
that's part of the problem. So this is a larger work, right? This is part of an overall, approach
and and how you're looking at these communities. One of the things that I have said in a number
of conversations is that you can't go to these communities and come in and be extractive, right?
We have to treat those communities the same way we treat major donors. You, your job is to cultivate
a relationship with them and sustain that relationship. That is an anti-racist practice;
that is actually an anti-hierarchical practice that goes against how we have traditionally
thought of museums as functioning. So that's part of the way that this can this can work.
>>When you really hit on the heart of this for a lot of people
who are starting to enter this and thinking about where to begin.
It's important to right at the outset there's deep, deep history to this. There's deep legacies,
but it's systemic. It's not just a one moment in time. It's really going to touch every corner,
every avenue of the institution. And going back to the definitions even Ben said around inclusion,
really thinking about where power sits and how even the best of work the best
of intentions can be derailed if the power equilibrium isn't in your favor. And so,
certainly we can add to what Noelle said but I want to build on it too and encourage everybody
to chime in when you want to but I think moving to the visualization of practice is helpful. I think
on many levels each of us can understand, 'okay something needs to change, something could change,
but what does it actually look like? And we often get tripped up in those moments,
and so I want to turn to Ashley for this one to kick us off. You know, what are the hallmarks of
inclusive museum practice, what does it look like for you at the Whitney, at the Whitney Plantation?
What does it look like in action? Maybe for anyone, like where have you seen evidence of it,
and and how do you describe it or to share with others? >> I want to just start by saying that
I want to co-sign everything that Noelle just said and and Ben you too and I'm I'm so happy
to be part of this conversation. And you know, one thing that I think about a lot at Whitney,
you know we're a very recent organization, where you know we have only been a museum since 2014.
So our museum has never been anything but a plantation and then a museum about plantations.
So, we're in a sort of peculiar kind of spot but with a typical museum I like to think about
the two levels of harm that have happened, so there's a historical harm and there's an
institutional harm oftentimes. In my sense, the historical harm that we have to deal with
is the fact that our plantation, our museum was a site of stolen labor for over 200 years.
And so that is what we have to wrestle with but oftentimes museums have not only that historical
harm, but they also have an institutional harm where the institution then came in and created
harm for the community through things like practicing segregation, you know not allowing
or having like one day a week where they allow African Americans to come into the museum for
instance, to you know what so many museums are dealing with wrestling with NAGPRA and
things like that. So there's institutional harm and historical harm, and I really want museum
practitioners to think along those lines. So for us, in terms of, you know inclusive practice,
I'll start by saying you know it's-- it's-- I never want to say we're doing everything
just right, right? I mean, I think that one of the things that for me that's important
is over and over again continuing to find and acknowledge and redress blind spots.
You know, that's that's one of the things, I mean what you're pointing to Noelle about like
if what you're doing is hiring one person of color and saying, 'All right, you know, we did
it,' that's not this kind of ongoing commitment. And so for me as a leader, that's looked like
finding uncomfortably that I'm wrong, and then dealing with that, and then apologizing, and then
figuring out how I'm going to fix it and not relying on someone else to tell me how to fix it
but to do that work myself, you know. So that's on a personal level what that's looked like.
On an institutional level, for us I mean just by our you know what we do at Whitney Plantation
is that we-- the whole focus of our museum is on the lives of enslaved people and the legacies of
enslavement that are ongoing especially in Louisiana but across the country.
And so from our interpretation that is a huge part of what we do. And then on an institutional level,
our staffing the way that we staff the museum is also very unusual. We don't have anybody at the
museum who has prior museum experience and um we hire at the museum, I hire at the museum based on
who I think is going to be a good fit for that, and that might be somebody, is often somebody who
has never interacted with our field at all. But they bring really unique perspectives,
and these are people who are interpreting the history. I think that oftentimes we don't trust
community members to interpret the history, but in our case, you know, we have descendants of people
who are enslaved at Whitney, who are interpreting the history of slavery. And that's really crucial
to what we do, because it's about you know sharing knowledge and making sure that people
are a part of the conversation. So those are just a few kind of institutional practices on
on our end. But I think that, you know what was so imp-- what's so important about what Noelle said,
what Ben said, is that that diversity is one thing but inclusion is so important.
And that if people can't come to work and be themselves, if people are going to come to work
and be tasked with being the representative of their race, of their ethnicity, and then
being expected to to educate everyone else about that, that's not an inclusive workplace and you're
not going to retain, you're not going to do any of that good work. You know, it's just gonna
continue to overburden people of color. So those are some things that I think about.
>>I'm glad you hit on leadership too because I want to talk about that a little bit here in a
second. I'm just wondering though before I move into that next one if Ben and Noelle,
I would like to add. I'm wondering even like Ben being new at the Ohio History Connection,
with the intentions you're bringing and the work that's already going on
have you started to see evidence of what inclusive practice looks like in those spaces.
>>Yeah, I think, I think your prompt is really a good one because
really understanding what this looks like in practice is-- is important for all of us in
in order to sort of begin imagining that in, in our institutions. I think one of the ways that
I have tried to move toward inclusion as a baseline for better decision making
is to really expand the leadership team. So you know when I began, the decisions that impacted
the lives of most people in the organization were being made by a group of somewhere between two
and five people depending on sort of when the when the time was or or what the decision was.
And we shifted now to a leadership model where we have a group of 22 people on the leadership team.
And you know conventional wisdom you know says that that's too big a group to make decisions,
to be effective. And we've found that absolutely not only to be incorrect, but that it has really
strengthened the relationships across departments and divisions, and the decisions that we've made
have been so different than the ones that would have been made by a smaller group.
That sense of like best practice in our field, we have to just keep pounding away that because
inclusion requires an entire different set of best practices. And they are often about
seeding authority both you know my our my colleague in-- in Hawaii, Noelle Kahanu, put
together a symposium where she talked about seeding authority as giving up authority
but seeding authority as implanting the seeds of authority throughout you know across the place and
and shifting that paradigm. So so many of us see-- see it as ceding with a "C" but in fact it's
seeding with it with an S in. So I think finding ways to seed authority, making sure that there
are groups of staff who are not in the leadership who have access through committee work. We have
a rapid response team who brings issues that they feel the organization needs to respond to to this
leadership group and they make recommendations and you have to not just make space for that,
you have to listen, you have to take it seriously, and you have to act on the recommendations. You
can't get by recommendations say no we can't do any of them. So you have to take you have to put
you have to back up sort of what you're setting up with a willingness to cede that authority
and to make decisions that maybe you wouldn't have occurred to you.
>>And I would, I would just like to add to that that inclusion also means diversifying
your pipeline, right? Too many times what we do is we hire people only from the schools that we know,
programs that we know, things like that. And I can't tell you how many conferences--
conversations I've been a part of where someone's like, 'Well, we just can't find
qualified Black candidates.' I can tell you at least three HBCUs off the top of my head
who are doing museum studies or public history work, who have
qualified candidates. If you have not reached out to ATOM or the Association of African American
Museums to get qualified Black applicants you haven't done the work, right? If you're-- if
you only go through the channels of your institution and what you think is possible
then you have limited yourself. You know, and there are minority students at some of these top
museum studies programs across the country who are having trouble getting their foot in the door,
because you simply refuse to look at them or you simply refuse to to view them as viable
candidates, right? So that's part of the issue and then part of it is as a field,
we got to do better in recruiting people to other areas. Typically we find a lot of minorities
in curatorial or interpretive work. We are not finding them in exhibit design. They're hard to
find and preparator work. They're hard to find in collections work, and they're hard to find
in conservation work. And it's, I don't think it's the fault of those individuals, I fought the field
for not recruiting people and not helping them at a very early point in their career,
perhaps at the undergraduate level, to understand that this could be a plausible career.
You know a lot of exhibit designers I know were former architects and they decided, 'I'm
not interested in building a building,' right? Well how many are you know how many architects,
Black architects there are there aren't that many, but how many people started an architecture
program and realized that wasn't for them but would be really great exhibition designers. Those
are the sort of things that we have to look at. So we have to not just reach out but we have to
look at the pipeline how we're diversifying the pipeline and pulling folks in that way.
>>Great. Well, let's let's go back to that question of leadership, because we've all kind of
touched on it. It's something I fret about frankly quite a bit, the state of leadership in the museum
field. What decisions are made in the C-suite in that top level, whatever size of organization
you're in, and how that those decisions are connecting, being impacted by the board
dynamic, can really set the agenda for a long time for an organization. And leadership, I have found,
can often be less engaged in this work or less aware, often not sitting in the room
when conversations that are really difficult and heartfelt and transformational are happening. And
just even loop to my next question that you know what I find often is, and you all know
this we've talked about this, that educators are the early indicators of what needs to change.
And they're interfacing with the public more and sometimes there's just this stop between that
frontline experience, that classroom experience, and what audiences need, and where it goes
up the chain if you will. And let's talk a little bit about leadership, what do you think needs to
change? Why do you think there's this blockage many times? What do leaders need to be aware of,
and what can they influence in their institutions?
Anyone can go first, let's go with Noelle, look at her she's ready.
>> You know, and Idon't know the stats, but I think part of it we have to look at the diversity
of leaders in themuseum field, right? How many are men, how manyare white,
you know? I think we have seen in the last few years a lot more women and women of color
rising to the ranks of being able to be executive directors or presidents of museums. But I think
that that's where it starts right? And not to say that you can't be a white man and be aware
of those issues, but it's really being willing to step out of the frame right and do that work. And
to say okay there's a lapse in our senior suite, in our c-suite, and that if you're wondering why
you're having issues at the front lines of your organization, it's because you haven't
created policies. And it's not just creating the policy, it's linking it to performance,
it's looking at linking it to pay increases, it's a full overhaul. If we can do it for safety, if we
can do it for how we handle objects, we can-- and we can do it for security, we can do it for DEAI.
>>I also think, you know to Noelle's point, that that this is also a problem of the pipeline,
right? Like, we-- I-- what I see happening especially with young museum professionals,
this seems like, the theme of what's been happening in the last few years, is that
people with really interesting and good ideas who want to transform the museum field are
getting into those curator you know lower curator level positions, they're getting into education.
They're bumping up against these kind of problems that are coming from that established leadership.
and they're getting out of dodge, right? Because it-- you know and I can't fault them for that.
If they're not making the money and they're constantly hearing, 'No we can't change it,
there's nothing we can do,' and they're not seeing themselves represented in leadership,
then we're losing all of these potential people who could really advance the field, I think.
So, to me that is just a-- a huge problem and I and I think that there's
not enough, you know I think, discussion about how you move up, how how do you
become a leader? Like there are not a lot of mentorship opportunities especially for
young professionals. I think a lot of young professionals feel like they're going to get
stuck somewhere in the middle and never be able to go up, especially when so many-- especially at
the bigger institutions so many museum leaders aren't actually people from the field, right?
Sometimes they're people who have moved up but, a lot of times they came from corporate America
and they got put over here and they don't really have the same values as the rest of
the museum field. I mean there's just seems to be this kind of disconnect in some ways.
>>I also think, Ashley, we don't allow some of those younger professionals the
room to make mistakes. Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes y'all make mistakes and
you gotta live with the consequences. I mean, we all have had one or two of those instances
in their career-- in our careers, but what you will excuse in terms of behavior from a white
male, you will not excuse from the behavior for a person of color. And that's problematic,
right? Like if you're not making allowances and saying this is a growth opportunity, you know,
saying let's work on this, this is how you recover from this, if there's not that sort of grace and
generosity and in terms of cultivating, then how are people gonna learn? Now I absolutely get it,
you know, some folks I know who are in management like that's not always the case, and I understand
that as well, but part of it has to be creating that space. And I don't see that happening
enough. I think that the-- the-- the standards put on people of color in the museum field are
extremely tight, and when they don't meet them they're out the door. Whereas for someone else
there's a lot of lax, there's a lot of slack given and I think we have to shift that. If we can shift
that and make that consistent across the board, clearly there's always going to be like the no go
things: sexual harassment, discrimination, ya out. But for these other things that are managerial
growth points, why can't we do that across the board for everybody?
>>Yeah, I would just like to reinforce that absolutely Noelle. I think,
I feel like I see that all the time. There is an expectation when Indigenous
staff or staff of color speak that they are speaking to an agenda in a way that there's
not that expectation often if a white staff member says the same thing or speaks to the same issue.
So I think you know that's the place where that sort of first step, like step one around inclusion
are things like trainings, and implicit bias, and unconscious bias, and you know sort of that,
you know, structures of-- you know all all of that. Because people need to even just
unders-- understand what's at play so that it can get called out, right? And so
I think that you know yeah I just want to say I absolutely concur that that's happening regularly.
>>Well I know that I'm always curious about this question and I hope that you'll be willing to
share a little bit with us. Tell us about your journey from belief to practice, but also maybe
tell us about any catalyzing moment that would have happened for you to to solidify the path
that you're on. Our colleague Chris Taylor who is now the Chief Diversity Officer for the state
of Minnesota but before that he was the Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement
at the Minnesota Historical Society. He talks a lot about catalyzing moments or epiphanies that,
it's this heart felt, maybe it's a hit in the stomach, maybe it's this burst of brain power,
something that tells you, 'Oh my journey just took a new turn,' or 'I need to double down,
I need to think differently about what I believe and as I manifest practice.'
What are some of those stories you can tell or share?
Who wants to go first? You got one, Noelle, you got one?
>>I hate to keep talking first but I'll do it. I'll give you
guys some timeto buy and and think about them.
You know,I don't know if there-- there have been a lot of moments in my life and I think it started
out when I was a kid. Because when they would do Black history or even just American history,
I kind of asked the teacher, why? Like you know they say you know the Pilgrims killed the Indians
or, you know whatever you know all these things, I'm like well why did the Indigenous people have
to leave like that doesn't make sense. Like, I was very literal, I could be very rational as a child.
So I'm, I was the one like, "Mmm." Or they'd say such and such did this I'm like, 'So what about
the slaves? what were they doing?' and if you just tell me that they were happy I'm like, 'That
doesn't sound right to me. That that doesn't gel right.' And because my parents kind of cultivated
us going to museums a lot, I kind of became interested in the stories that objects tell.
It didn't solidify that this is what I wanted to do until I got to Howard University and I met Dr.
Elizabeth Clark Lewis, and she introduced me to the concept of public history. And I was like,
'That's it, I like history, I like the story, I like making the story accessible to people,'
right? And finding interesting stories and ways to make that connection. And so that really evolved
for me through the Park Service. I became really skilled at interpretation. And so that was kind
of like part of my journey. One moment where I was like, 'okay, I've done a really good job was as a
contractor for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. When they were
opening, I was working with Spencer Crew on their Great Migration exhibition. And at one point we
were like, 'We're doing the Great Migration we need an international aspect.' And I was like who
do I know whose family came in internationally? And I just had to sit there and I it's like I went
to Howard, I know a lot of international black people, but who would have come
during this time period? And I realized one of my friends Omar E. Martinez, that's how his dad came,
he came in the 60s. And so I called him up, I said, 'Hey can I talk to you dad? Does he want to
be in the museum?' Turns out his father said yes, and we had a great conversation and it means a lot
to know that his story is up there right and so that the family can see it and even my own
family is listed in the interactive. That's a moment where I'm like, okay this feels right,
these are the stories I want told, these are the people, I like amplifying the stories of just
folks that you wouldn't think of but whose story fits in the larger context of American history.
>>Ashley or Ben, would you like to share something?
>>Ashley do you want to go? >>I think she's deferring to you, I think. >>I'll
go. >>I gave you time. >> I think I have to kick out these dogs.
>>You know I I think these 'aha' moments have just sort of happened regularly
thanks to the teachers that I've had. I've just been so lucky to have been associated with some,
with people who were doing-- who've been doing this work you know for 30 years before
I was doing it. When I went to Banks-- my grad program at Bank Street College,
one of the instructors and my advisor was a woman named Claudine Brown who was the Under Secretary
for Access Education and Access at Smithsonian. And you know she was the one who really helped me
understand that you need to align your work in the world with the work that you do for life.
You need to work in institutions where you have shared values. And I remember doing this exercise
where we were sort of writing about the issues that were most important to us,
and I was working at the Getty, at sort of an elite art museum at that point, and none of my top
you know issues were related to sort of you know art practice or art history or art appreciation,
they were all related to social justice. And so that was really a moment where it was like,
'okay, I see, I need to go work in different places,' and that sort of set me on a path.
And you know there were other you know, I just had so many instructors, people, mentors and
instructors who sort of had helped me sort of achieve those light bulb-- light bulb moments.
You know, I think probably the the biggest one that put me on the path that I'm on currently
was when I went to UC Berkeley and I was just so-- just inexcusably and ill-- uninformed
about the atrocities that museums have perpetuated against American Indians. And walking into a
facility at UC Berkeley and seeing the remains of 11,000 human beings held there in such, sort
of clinical objectification and not being treated as ancestors, or as humans, or as the remains of
humans, but as specimens. And understanding the degree to which museums had extracted
not just sort of the living aspects of American Indian culture but then also gone in and extracted
all of, all of sort of the living dead, the dead, the dead who have their journeys, and their past
as well. And that that was where I really saw the degree to which museums have been perpetrators.
And that's where I understood that what I wanted to do was work
to revision museums so that they move from a position of perpetuating, and you know,
inflicting violence upon people, and systems, and communities to to being a part of healing them.
>>I think you know, I've been interested in the history of race and slavery as far
back as I can remember. I honestly don't know a time in my life when it wasn't
fascinating to me. And I also kind of always felt like it was a-- a thing that was being
withheld from me in some way. You know I had a few teachers who I think departed from curriculum
and took it upon themselves to educate us. But the thing that I always liken it to growing up
as a kid in-- in the south in the 80s, is like the feeling of when you walk into a
room and everybody just stops talking. Like you know that they were just talking a minute ago,
and now they're not talking anymore. That's how I felt that all of the adults in my life
felt about the civil rights movement. It was just this thing that was just right there. And they--
they would sometimes talk about segregation, and they were still the ghosts of it everywhere.
I mean there were still like, you know segregated water fountains still in the middle of town. It's
just that like, they didn't have signs anymore. You know so you could just feel that it was all
right there. And I always felt like I wanted that explained to me and it wasn't explained very well.
And I think you know so I ca-- I always read about it constantly, and in my--
when I was in grad school for my MA, I remember going home to North Carolina, and
I went and-- went to a plantation. And I just had an epiphany that I wanted to
move back to-- I was living in Colorado and I-- I wanted to move back to the sout,h and I wanted to
work in a plantation interpreting slavery. It's just that I thought that I was going to have to
work at a like a normal plantation, and try to wrangle it you know, turn it around. And you
know after working for a few years for History Colorado, coincidentally, Whitney Plantation
was opening right at the same time that I was moving to Louisiana. And I was able to kind of
to make a case to come there and work there and be the first-- the first museum employee there.
There had previously been a research director. But I-- I think that you know it's it's hard to put
my finger on a moment, because it just feels like it's been this--
it's there's not been an option. if that makes sense. This is the only thing that I've ever
really, really cared about, and so as a result I can't really say even why I care about it
so much. I don't understand why people don't care about it. You know this is the story of us,
I think. And-- and it's so crucial to understanding where we are. And I feel very
proud and humbled now to get to be a part of an institution that tells that story, so that I can
correct those things, right? I can help to correct those things, and my team of people
that work with me can help to correct those things, that aren't-- that weren't done right.
We have been gifted so many wonderful questions from our participants. And I want to turn to
those. I want to see if there's anything else my-- your colleagues want to share or talk
about before we move to those questions. I'm so grateful for everything that you've said tonight,
and I know that it's been resonating with our audience, because they've been--
they've been generous in their response as well. Any last words before we move to questions?
Good, all right. Well I'm glad we ended on the note of personal journey, quite frankly, because
it is within all of us to do something. And it really requires the internal work
to do the meaningful work whether it's inside the institution or externally
in communities where we work. So thank you for that. I want to turn to the questions, and then I
will make sure we can capture as many as we want or can. And then I'll certainly close this out
we'll-- by talking about what's coming next. It looks like we had a question early on for Noelle.
Noelle can you give examples of creating a relationship with the
community in a non-extractive way and how to continue that relationship?
>>Well I mean I think it has to deal number one, with where
your institution is located,who's surrounding you, who's the community members.
An extractive relationship would be for instance, it's Black History Month, and
you go to the local community center or after school program and say, 'Hey come to the museum,
perform,' and that's it, and they don't hear anything from-- from me for the rest of the year.
A non-extractive relationship it may start at that place that-- that it starts with the invitation to
make them feel welcome, but then perhaps you look at members of those communities and invite them to
serve in an advisory capacity. Perhaps you follow Wing Luke's excellent example and do community
curation for an exhibition. That you really go in and bring in community stakeholders and allow them
to help facilitate, the not only the interpretive story, but the overall design of the exhibition.
It's a-- that's a really big idea in terms of ceding and authority, but it's one that can be
long term. And then it's also, you know, part of it is just grant writing. You know, you find
those community organizations and thing-- and people to work with and you're also putting some
money on the table, you know. So those grants help facilitate and sustain those organizations. The
whole point of it is that if we can-- if we know not to approach a major donor, and cold call them
and ask for 50 million dollars, that we know that it is a long runway to get that 50 million dollar
gift. It is the same thing, the same approach, the same theory behind what your overall goal is in
terms of seeing more community involvement. And it it may perhaps mean rethinking your programming,
right? If you're a very big institution and you only get 10 people at a program, and that's a good
day, I'm going to need you to rethink what your programming is and figure out why those people--
why a desired group isn't showing up. And it may be doing surveys, it may be having conversations,
and it may mean stepping outside of the physical building and going to the community and talking
to them and figuring out where the opportunities to work together are. It is a lot of work, but I
think it's one that will be vastly rewarding. But it is it is a very deliberate action.
>>Thank you. We have another one that's being directly asked to Ben.
How is that group of 22 people comprised? Is it a range of staff from all departments
and in various ranges of management levels?
It is a range of staff from a lot of departments. So all of the divisions in the organization and
a number of departments within those divisions are represented.
There is also a range of leadership in there although everyone in there is... well, either
sort of works directly with one of the leaders in the museum, or you know, is a division head or
a director of a department. So it's interesting, you know-- I mean it's interesting to think about
how that might evolve in the future but I think for us it was really just about making sure that
you know we weren't-- you know-- what I see-- what I've often been in the position
where I have a number of divisions reporting up to me, and I'm expected to sit and represent all
of those perspectives. It often like adds up to sort of 60, 70, 80 percent of the staff,
and as one person it's like simply impossible for me to make the right decisions for that many--
for that many people's, you know, work. And so you know, this really has been about sort of
breadth. It's got a little bit of depth in terms of sort of you know levels in the organization,
but it probably only has people from the sort of top three levels of the organization.
We have a question that showed up in the chat rather than the Q&A,
so I'm going to share that one now, which also kind of ties into some of the other questions.
So we might stitch a few together here. What do you see as the greatest continuing
obstacle to diversifying museums in the in the U.S.? And I think what that's getting at is, you
know, making DEAI come alive in museums, if you will. What's the greatest obstacle or obstacles?
>> Ithink-- if I can-- I think that there are problems
on both ends. Like you have this kind of sandwich problem. You have a problem of
leadership who may take it seriously but not know
how seriously to take it, and not know how to go about changing things, and not be willing to
investigate their own blind spots. And I think there's been a lot of-- there's been a lot of like
call outs of museums, has been happening in New Orleans a lot, of executive leadership for racist
behavior. And there seems to be this kind of in-- in a way kind of a stonewalling, right? Like
there's an acknowledgement that that we have to say that this is really important, but maybe not
that we're gonna really take the steps to change things. And then you have another problem on the
bottom which is unpaid internships being the way that people get into the field. This is a massive
problem, and I think everybody needs to be taking it very, very, very seriously. This is excluding
people from our field. Nobody wants to have to be required to pay money to work a job in order
to get their foot in the door, right? And I and I think that you know I had to do an internship.
Like a lot of people have to do these things, but it is just so deeply not equitable, and I
really think that-- that that as leaders we need to start taking that very, very, seriously. >>
I got a more succinct answer for you Cinnamon. It's white supremacy. That's it. It is and it it
filters into all levels of the organization. It's how you center-- which voices you center. It's who
you view and what you normalize in terms of what leadership should look, like what's appropriate.
A lot of times this idea of cultural fit is a-- is based off of a definition of whiteness
and not a definition of diversity. So if you want a very succinct way of looking at it, yeah
it's white supremacy, and we've got to get real comfortable with dealing with these ideas of white
supremacy and whiteness within the field before we can even, you know, as we're dismantling it
for us to achieve true DEAI. If you can't say the words white supremacy, if you can't acknowledge
whiteness in the work, I don't know what you're doing, because there's no way that you're gonna
do DEAI work without acknowledging it. To build on what Ashley was saying, I think it's the unpaid
internship problem is part of it, but it's also the lack of a living wage. And one of the things
I'm really proud of at the National Civil Rights Museum, that we've done, is that within a year
of someone's employment, they will receive $15 an hour. So you may start out a little bit below 15,
but it's more closer to a living wage. But by the time you've been here and where you're--
you're more secure in the position you've hit $15 an hour. I think that's a big example,
but when I hear there are positions and they're paying seven or ten dollars an hour
in San Francisco, come on now, or New York, you might as well just not pay them anything. That's
ridiculous. You're just throwing coins at it so that's the other phase of that, but I think all--
both of those function as a part of whiteness and white supremacy, what you've normalized as
appropriate and the way to get into this field. We've gotta-- we've gotta open that thinking.
>> We are at our one hour mark, and I wanna be incredibly respectful to my colleagues whohave
joined me tonight. We have more and more questions. I think my best way forward is
for Elizabeth to share my email address in the chat for you as well as if panelists
are interested they can share theirs. I know that has been going on a little bit,
otherwise I can bring in questions and ask them to our panelists later. so that we're respectful of
time. I know we can't clap loudly and show our enthusiasm for the folks who join me tonight:
Noelle, Ashley, and Ben, but I know my heart is bursting with gratitude for all of you
being with me tonight, and I know we've benefited from the conversation. I grow each time I spend a
moment of time with each of you, so thank you. And I just want to conclude by saying. we're not done.
We have three more of these great conversations to come. The next one is on October 22nd,
titled Museums Are Not Neutral. We'll be looking at really the past five years and how the museum
failed has witnessed a reckoning. You've heard about this a tiny bit with the movements that
have been going, on the protests that have been going on, the open letters to museums.
We'll talk about this, and we'll also talk about the notion of neutrality, and how museums are not
neutral. And we'll be joined by one of the co-founders of that movement LaTonya Autrey
who's a cultural organizer, curator, and art historian, as well as Kayleigh Bryant-
Greenwell who's the Head of Public Programs at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C.,
and Elisabeth Callihan who's one of the founders of MASS Action, which many of us have been part of
who are on tonight. She's theHead of Multi-Generational Learning at
the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. So be sure to visit us at illinoisstatemuseum.org to sign up.
Follow us on social media, become a member, and get early notices of everything we're doing.
And we'll keep you informed. So thank you so much for being with us tonight and have
a good evening stay well, stay healthy, and we'll get through this together.Thank you.
>> Thanks Cinnamon. Bye everyone. Thank you Noelle. Thanks Ashley.
>> Thank you everyone.
>>. Thank you