by guest columnist James Stanton

This year NEMA asked conference attendees to question why museums are needed now more than ever. In an increasingly diverse society, museums offer a space for people to reflect, learn, and honor their different histories while bringing communities together to share, learn, and grow from each other. The recurring themes of the sessions I attended echoed this sentiment by stressing increased community outreach and examination of accessibility issues.

As this year’s Diversity Fellow, I came to Newport ready to engage in the difficult and sometimes awkward conversations that arise when race, class, gender, and socio economic status are discussed in relation to the ever broadening missions of museums.
I was excited to find that many of my colleagues, both students and professionals, were also ready to tackle these issues and that the atmosphere encouraged honest, open, and supportive conversation. I am sure it is never easy to admit in front of your peers that up until a year ago you didn’t fully understand the community your museum was located in, yet in one session many museum staff said just that and then together brainstormed ideas on how to break down the imposing walls of museums. My little heart grew three sizes that day.

Moving forward with my studies at Tufts, I am pleased to know that the discussions we often have in the classroom about the difficulties of welcoming diverse audiences into our museums are also happening out “in the real world.” NEMA is committed to the belief that each town in New England has unique history and culture around every corner that can connect to all walks of life. I look forward to these continued conversations both through NEMA events and in classes on the Hill.