Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion

Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion (often described in museum circles as DEAI or IDEA) are four values that should be at the core of every museum. They stand for welcoming and engaging museum publics and personnel in meaningful ways. The following definitions and further resources will help museums welcome and more fully engage their surrounding community by becoming more open about their past and their collections. The following pages seek to address DEAI across ability, class, gender, race, ethnic, and queer identities.

The resources listed in this section are starting points for conversations about how to better integrate the diversity of your community into your museum. However, the best resource is your community. We strongly encourage community outreach and involvement to get a sense of where your patrons, donors, and visitors feel they are not being appropriately represented.

Diversity consists in the understanding that institutions are stronger when they engage and employ people across dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, religious belief, and ideology. People are equal, and they are distinct, and many studies from the nonprofit and business world show that institutions thrive when they appreciate diversity more.

Equity recognizes difference and seeks to provide resources to equalize opportunity. If equality is the end goal, equity is the means to get there.

Accessibility is about ensuring that diverse groups of people can participate.

Inclusion is a sense of belonging, it is about making people feel respected and valued for who they are, about empowering voices that have been ignored or dismissed so that they can more meaningfully contribute to the institution. Many institutions confuse “diversity” (which is about engaging and employing people from multiple backgrounds) with “inclusion” (which is about listening and granting authority to diverse people).

Some Basics

In 2016, Huffington Post released “9 Things Museums Can Do To Improve The Way We Experience Art” and while it is geared specifically towards art museums, there are plenty of tips that are useful for museums of all sorts, including:

  • Paying closer attention to the wording of your signs. For example, replacing outdated, potentially offensive language with more welcoming, inclusive terms.
  • Functioning as a setting for community gatherings and activities. By engaging with your community, you can help guide the conversation of inclusion and diversity (as well as building long-lasting community relationships)
  • Opening at hours to accommodate people who work during the traditional 10am-5pm museum hours.