Museums for All
Below is a compilation of resources to help museums engage their surrounding community, be inclusive, and be culturally competent as museum professionals in assisting their visitors during their museum experience. This page seeks to address ability, class, gender, race, religious, and sexual orientation competency.
In the blog post “Beyond the Walls: Building the Capacity for Community” the writers of Brown Girls Museum Blog, Amanda Figueroa and Ravon Ruffin, give a synopsis of their 2017 Small Museum Association keynote speech. They give examples of several small museums who are doing it right by drawing in people from the local community and making them stakeholders.
Is it time to dismantle diversity? In the March, 23, 2017 talk by Adriel Luis at the Rockwood Museum entitled “Dismantling Diversity,” the curator discusses this very loaded question. He went on to write an article for Medium in which he features his recorded talk as well as post-lecture thoughts on the use of the word “diversity” in museum programming and what organizations should consider as they seek to engage with their visitors. He also highlights the new Culture Labs, “fleeting, site-specific happenings that recognize art and culture as vehicles that can bring artists, scholars, curators, and the public together in creative and ambitious ways,” at the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center.
In 2016 a group of fifty museum professionals/activists convened at the Minneapolis Institute of Art to begin a project to addressing equity in museums. In 2017 the group of professionals designed a toolkit, which turned into a book, about enacting the idea of museums as sites of social action. The toolkit can be downloaded for free at MuseumAction.org. On the site you will find other helpful information including a Readiness Assessment for museums to gauge their ability to engage with equity work, blogs and chats to follow, as well as other projects and resources dedicated to making museums inclusive places.
In a recorded session from AASLH’s annual meeting in 2016, the staff of the Arab American National Museum located in Dearborn, Michigan provided great insights to increasing an institution’s cultural competency. As demographics of museum visitors change, it is growing ever increasingly important to be aware of the different cultural backgrounds your visitors will have. Take a listen to these tips from Cultural Competency: A Powerful Tool For Change.
This abbreviated essay from Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell of the National Museum of African American History, Reflections on A Seat at the Table at NMAAHC explains how the museum uses social justice to drive their programming. This essay discusses two parts of their series A Seat At the Table: Immigrants of Color and LGBTQ Friends in Faith and looks at the outcomes of these programs that rely on audience participation.
Visitors of Color is a resource for museum professionals who wish to engage with marginalized people in their museums to improve their visitor experiences. The site is helpful for understanding how to create exhibitions that speak to the lived experiences and interested of marginalized people. Finally, the site is also a space for people who love museums to express how they feel about their experiences in museum settings. The Incluseum is another resource for museums that are interested in engaging in critical dialogues, community building, and collaborative practices centering inclusion.
The American Alliance of Museums has created the LGBTQ Welcoming Guidelines for Museums as a checklist/assessment for museums to use when working with LGBTQ professionals and communities.
If your museum would like to create an exhibition related to and/or on LGBTQIA history, The Pop-Up Museum of Queer History, can bring their museum to you.
The Queering the Museum Project (QTM) is resource featuring a project seeking to engage museum professionals and communities in dialogue on showcasing representations of LGBT/Q* individuals in museum spaces.
If you are interested in trends in research on LGBT history as well as case studies, a book to read is Interpreting LGBT History at Museums and Historic Sites by Susan Ferentinos, PhD.
If you are interested in incorporating programming for children and adults along the Autism spectrum, this article, “Autism in Museums” by Catherine Salthouse on the Western Museum Association website is a great place to start for ideas and resources.
The Autism in the Museum website is a wonderful resource for how to design your museum exhibit to meet the needs of people with autism and their families.
The Children’s Museum of New Hampshire’s Exploring Our Way Program for Autism is a great example of weekly programming for children with autism.
In 2015 the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University opened an interactive exhibit entitled, “Patient No More: People with Disabilities Securing Equal Rights.” Everything from the exhibition’s building location to the electrical outlets was considered in the designers’ concept of being accessible to all. This article on the blog, Public Disability History, by Catherine Kudlick, describes the process.
The National Council on Public History features an ongoing working group forum for museum professionals to share case study best practices for making their institutions accessible to all. Although on a much larger scale, the Smithsonian Museum has an Accessibility Program, which could be a model to follow to develop a similar program in your museum.
The American Association of State and Local History offers a book entitled, Programming for People with Special Needs: A Guide for Museums and Historic Sites by Katie Stringer to assist museum professionals in designing their spaces to be inclusive to all with intellectual and learning disabilities.
The A11Y Project is a great resource to reference on how to design your website to be further accessible to your visitors as well.