Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Assessing Allyship with the AAM

October is a great time to talk about LGBTQ+ identity in museums! You may be thinking, “Isn’t Gay Pride in June?” and you’d be right, but October is also a key month for discussing more than just pride. Not only was National Coming Out Day held on October 11th, but it also happens to be LGBT History Month in the US and UK. Additionally, the first annual International Pronouns Day was observed this year. This event seeks to normalize the practice of recognizing preferred pronouns and asking for them in public spaces. Considering as well the recent rumors that the Department of Health and Human Services is about to propose changes to the federal definition of of gender to exclude trans and genderqueer people from federal civil rights protections, the time is right to evaluate how museums are treating their LGBTQ+ audiences, staff, and subjects.

The American Alliance of Museums has made a guide for welcoming LGBTQ+ people available for several years now and it is an excellent place to start when evaluating if your museum is doing all it can do to support the LGBTQ+ members of its community. The guide is multi-faceted, applying LGBTQ+ concepts to AAM’s seven Standards of Excellence, ranging from Facilities Management to Public Trust and Accountability and everything in between. Like their Standards of Excellence, the LGBTQ+ Guidelines provide a handy self-assessment checklist to aid museum staff in evaluating their own institutions. So what do these standards look like?

 

 

 

 

In this example from the Public Trust and Accountability section, you can clearly see how a Standard of Excellence, in this case adherence to all federal, state, and local laws, can be put through an LGBTQ+ critique that results in guidelines that surpass the requirement to comply with laws. While your institution will of course continue to follow any governing statutes, regulations do not always protect people from harassment on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, for example. In a case like this, creating an internal policy that assures your LGBTQ+ staff and visitors that harassment or bias is not permitted on site helps your organization move from indifference to welcome.

 

 

 

Here, within the Mission and Planning standard, the recommendation to be inclusive of local communities when making decisions regarding collections, exhibits, or programming is applied specifically to the LGBTQ+ community. Moving beyond “token” attempts at diversity to build relationships with your local LGBTQ+ community groups shows an investment in the people that make up your audience. Consulting with LGBTQ+ experts and groups when putting together exhibits demonstrates an interest in accurately representing a marginalized community.

The intention of these guidelines is to provide measurable benchmarks that indicate that an institution has moved past “tolerance” of LGBTQ+ people into “inclusion” or better yet, ownership and community collaboration. In a time where rights that have been secured are at risk of being rolled back, it is worth taking a fresh look at these guidelines to consider if your institution is doing all it can to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

Weekly Job Roundup!

Good luck finding your dream job! Here’s the roundup for the week of October 21.

Northeast

Genealogist [New England Historic Genealogical Society / Boston, MA]

Community Engagement Program Liaison [Boston Children’s Museum / Boston, MA]

Curatorial Administrator & Assistant [Wadsworth Atheneum / Hartford, CT]

Manager of Special Collections [Mary Baker Eddy Library / Boston, MA]

Museum Educator, Exhibit, & Interpretive Planner [CT Landmarks / Hartford, CT]

Mid-Atlantic

Assistant Director of Visitor & Guest Services [National Museum of African American History & Culture / Washington, DC]

Project Curatorial Assistant [Carnegie Museum of Art / Pittsburgh, PA]

Research & Production Assistant [Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY]

Curator of Judaica [The Jewish Museum / New York, NY]

Executive Director [Monmouth County Historical Society / Freehold, NJ]

Southeast

Curator of Public Programs [Alabama Department of Archives & History / Montgomery, AL]

History Research Fellow [NC African American Heritage Commission / Greenville, NC]

Director of Education & Public Programs [National Museum of African American Music / Nashville, TN]

Curator of Exhibitions [International Museum of the Horse / Lexington, KY]

Exhibitions & Collections Assistant [The Society of the Four Arts / Palm Beach, FL]

Midwest

Executive Director [Clinton County Historical Society / Wilmington, OH]

Education Manager [Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Indianapolis, IN]

Manager of Community Engagement [Haggerty Museum of Art / Milwaukee, WI]

Executive Director [Armstrong Air & Space Museum / Wapakoneta, OH]

Curator & Exhibits Manager [Door County Maritime Museum / Sturgeon Bay, WI]

West

Chief Curator [African American Museum & Library / Oakland, CA]

Contemporary Art Department Head [Asian Art Museum / San Francisco, CA]

Director of Curatorial Affairs [Museum of Pop Culture / Seattle, WA]

Senior Curator [Museum of Flight / Seattle, WA]

Site Manager [Texas Historical Commission / Rockport, TX]

Who does the new National Law Enforcement Museum serve?

On Saturday, the National Law Enforcement Museum opened to the public in Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C. The Museum, which cost $103 million to construct, has a collection of 21,000 objects, and is intended to educate visitors about the experience of working in law enforcement. Featuring twelve interactive exhibits, visitors have the opportunity to engage with forensics, enter a 911 call center and play the role of a dispatcher, or participate in an officer training simulator.

Although Dave Brant, the museum’s executive director, has stated that “this facility will help us to educate, inform, create dialogue, around both the history of law enforcement [and] the current status of law enforcement,” I have to wonder who is missing from the museum’s narrative. How does the museum address Black Lives Matter, if at all? What about the lack of women in law enforcement, and the minority officer experience?  Does the museum discuss implicit biases among officers? At a time of intense racial divides, how does the National Law Enforcement Museum plan to engage visitors in a much-needed conversation?  Moreover, what does it mean for this museum to open now, merely two weeks after the Washington Post reported that 756 individuals have been fatally shot by police in 2018?

According to the museum’s website, its mission is to “introduce visitors to the proud history and many facets of American law enforcement in an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Our ‘walk in the shoes’ experience lets visitors learn what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer through innovative and engaging exhibits, artifacts and programs. We also seek to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve with thought-provoking programs that promote dialogue on topics of current interest.”

While it seems as if the museum is trying to become a space for constructive conversations, it is clearly one-sided. Despite an entire exhibit devoted to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, there is no mention of Black Lives Matter. Ultimately, through the use of special programming and other year-round educational programs, the museum is trying to improve community relations while striving to provide an alternative view of law enforcement not often told in the media.

Weekly Jobs Roundup!

Hello readers! Here’s the Weekly Jobs Roundup for the week of October 14th.

Northeast

Exhibit Designer [Museum of Science, Boston, MA]

Development Assistant [Concord Museum/Concord, MA]

Assistant Registrar [Williams College/Williamstown, MA]

Coordinator of Studio Arts and Family Programs [New Britain Museum of American Art/New Britain,  CT]

Director of Development [Greater Portland Landmarks/Portland, ME]

Mid-Atlantic

Assistant Curator of Exhibitions and Programs [Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY]

Museum General Manager [Jekyll Island Authority/Jekyll Island, GA]

Senior Director of Collections Management [Virginia Museum of Arts/Richmond, VA]

Assistant Manager of Guest Experience [Mt. Cuba Center/Hockessin, DE]

Exhibition Designer [High Museum of Art/Atlanta, GA]

Southeast

Associate Curator of Education for Public Programs [Norton Museum of Art/West Palm Beach, FL]

Development Associate [Boca Raton Museum of Art/Boca Raton, FL]

Associate Director of Development [Boca Raton Museum of Art/Boca Raton, FL]

Midwest

Education Manager [Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum/Indianapolis, IN]

Site Manager [Texas Historical Commission/Rockport, TX]

Museum Manager [Mansfield Historical Society/Mansfield, TX]

Curator and Exhibits Manager [Door County Maritime Museum/Sturgeon Bay, WI]

Educator of Visual Literacy and Learning [University Museums/Ames, IA]

West

Director of Education and Community Engagement [Pittock Mansion Society/Portland, OR]

Curatorial Practices Specialist [Anchorage Museum Association/Anchorage, Alaska]

Curatorial Assistant [Hammer Museum/Los Angeles, CA]

Exhibitions Manager [UC Riverside Arts/Riverside, CA]

Exhibitions Manager [Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/San Francisco, CA]

Decolonization Roundup

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, we’d like to share a roundup of articles about efforts to decolonize museums around the world.

With “Donors Force a Point at the Met that Never Should Have Had to be Made”, Nonprofit Quarterly looks at the shift in location for Native American art in a new exhibit opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this month. The shift was demanded by the donors backing the exhibit, and forced the Met to locate Native American art within the American Galleries, instead of their galleries for Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, where it is usually relegated, thus separating it from “America” conceptually.

“Sarah Cascone, writing for ArtNet, says, ‘In other countries, it is common to present indigenous art as part of the wider arc of a nation’s art history.’ Sylvia Yount, the curator in charge of the wing, told Brigit Katz at Smithsonian that US museums, including the Met, are ‘really behind the curve…when it comes to displaying indigenous artworks within the framework of America’s art history.'”

NPR’s “Where ‘Human Zoos’ Once Stood, A Belgium Museum Now Faces Its Colonial Past” looks at the history of The Royal Museum for Central Africa, where Belgian King Leopold once imprisoned more than 200 Congolese to be on display for Belgian crowds. The museum, and Belgium generally, has long resisted acknowledging its violent and colonial heritage, but is currently under the auspices of a Belgium director who is attempting to rectify some wrongs.

“‘They brought me here just to reform it,’ Gryseels says. ‘Obviously, our colonial past is something that we have to deal with.’ The museum finally closed for massive renovations in 2013, after years of planning. ‘We walk a tightrope,’ Gryseels says, between those who fear this transformation won’t go far enough and others who fear it will go too far.”

In “Decolonizing the Museum Mind”, a guest post for the American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums blog, Frank Howarth, former director of the Australian Museum  discusses the value of “welcome to country” practices that center traditional aboriginal owners of land and encourages European and US museums to embrace the idea and the values centered.

“A bit later I went to the then Getty Museum Leadership Program in 2010, with my New Zealand and Australian colleagues expecting to be welcomed to the Native American country on which the Getty Museum is situated (a comparable program in Australia or New Zealand would have a significant and very meaningful welcome to country by the traditional owners). We were surprised and disappointed that not only was there no acknowledgement of Native American place, there was negligible mention of anything Native American within the whole course. Nor was there any discussion around contemporary issues in museums and collections of the materials of first peoples.”

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