Museums and social responsibility
As we continue to absorb the news about protests against police brutality and racial injustice, museum professionals face potentially difficult decisions. While many of our personal consciences may prompt us to speak out, we find that our museums may be reluctant to enter the fray of public discourse on such volatile issues. Should we encourage our institutions to be more vocal? Is it within our mission to take a stand?
NEMA believes museums can and should do so. As key pillars of their communities, museums play an important role in helping make sense of life's challenges, contextualizing the news, and improving the circumstances of the people they serve. The great power of museums is their ability to transform the lives of individuals who walk through their doors. Their greater power, and fundamental duty in my opinion, is to act as agents of transformation to society as a whole.
Last week several of our museum colleagues from New England and around the country went on the record about the events of Ferguson, Cleveland, and Staten Island. We applaud their outspokenness. We also join their call for the museum field to reflect on its role in helping communities heal and grow.
At our recent NEMA conference, we hosted "think tank" sessions on how to make the museum field more socially responsible and how to diversify the field. In both, participants called for greater museum involvement in social change. Now is our collective opportunity to put these sessions into action.
I encourage you to read the statements and blog posts from our colleagues below, then engage your institution and constituencies in meaningful dialogue about how your museum can be a helpful and positive agent of change.
Statement from the Association of African American Museums: http://blackmuseums.org/blog/2014/11/statement-from-sam-black-president-aaam-board-of-directors/
Participating Bloggers and Colleagues
Gretchen Jennings, Museum Commons
Aletheia Wittman and Rose Paquet Kinsley, The Incluseum
Aleia Brown, AleiaBrown.org
Steven Lubar, On Public Humanities
Mike Murawski, Art Museum Teaching
Linda Norris, The Uncataloged Museum
Paul Orselli ExhibiTricks: A Museum/Exhibit/Design Blog
Ed Rodley, Thinking About Museums
Adrianne Russell, Cabinet of Curiosities
Nina Simon, Museum 2.0
Rainey Tisdale, CityStories
Jeanne Vergeront Museum Notes
Save the Date:
Dec. 17, 2014, 2-3 PM (EST) for a Twitter chat hosted by @adriannerussell and @aleiabrown on social justice, advocacy, and the museum field's responses to the issues of racism, injustice, and police brutality. Follow and join the conversation using the tag #museumsrespondtoferguson.