Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Author: Savannah M. Kruguer

Inclusive Language in Museums

Word choice matters. Words can include or exclude. Words can prescribe power or take it away. The language that museums use to communicate with their audience can create an inclusive environment and promote diverse stories, or not. Living history museums have a reputation for promoting a nostalgic version of the past and focusing on the stories of the white nuclear family, but this is beginning to change. Conversations about diversity and inclusion within all types of museums have increased in the last decade. On August 24, 2022, ICOM approved a new museum definition that includes, for the first time, phrases like “inclusivity”, “accessibility”, “diversity”, and “ethics.”  In the 21st century, museums are striving to become welcoming spaces for all visitors regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical ability. A significant step in this process has been the formation of internal DEAI (diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion) committees or workgroups.

This summer, I interned in the education department at Strawbery Banke Museum, where I increased my understanding of what inclusion can look like when working with young audiences at a living history museum. Strawbery Banke Museum is extremely forward-thinking compared to other living history museums I have visited. In 2020, the staff formed a DEAI task force and created a DEAI mission statement to guide work culture, interpretation, and audience interaction. In 2021, Strawbery Banke Museum introduced optional “she/her”, “he/him”, “they/them”, and “please ask” pronoun pins for staff to wear alongside their museum name tags. The pronoun pins are an actionable step that the museum is taking following its DEAI Task Force mission statement.

Strawbery Banke Museum
Pronoun Pins

Wearing a “she/her” pronoun pin every day, as part of my Strawbery Banke Museum uniform, was a simple yet impactful way that I chose to affirm that everyone’s identity should be valued. Wearing the pin was also a way I could invite campers into conversations about gender identity. As a general rule, we also greeted/addressed our groups as “campers” or “friends”, to avoid the greeting “boys and girls,” which assumes the group’s gender identities. In addition to the education staff wearing pronoun pins, we made them available to the summer campers. In the Victorian Jr. Roleplayers camp (12-17-year-olds) I helped implement, the pronoun pins were greatly appreciated, as several of the campers identified as non-binary. In Victorian Jr. Roleplayers, the campers engaged in historical research methods to learn about a specific “Puddle Dock” community member from the Victorian period to portray on the museum grounds. Like many living history sites, Strawbery Banke Museum’s records lack information about LGBTQIA+ community members. While there are historical primary source documents that tell these stories, traditionally they have been overlooked or buried by archives and researchers. This meant that the education team had to get creative. Without compromising historical accuracy (clothing, historical events, etc.), we created composite characters for our Jr. Roleplayers who identified as non-binary. In addition to this, we gave campers the choice of wearing female or male presenting historical clothing.

My goal for leading summer camps was not only to engage campers (6-17-year-olds) in Portsmouth community history through fun crafts and activities but to make sure all campers felt welcomed and respected while at the museum. I experienced first-hand how language choice has a huge impact on transgender or gender-non-conforming summer campers. Whether you are an emerging museum professional or a current professional, I believe we should all be striving to make diverse audiences feel welcomed, respected, and empowered in our museum spaces. 

There are so many great resources out there to guide museum staff and organizations in integrating inclusive language and practices into their spaces. In 2014, Margaret Middleton, a Boston-based exhibit designer, developed a Family-Inclusive Language guide to be used as a tool for museum educators and exhibit developers. The guide provides inclusive language alternatives for problematic phrases. For example, the guide suggests using the phrase “guardians” instead of “parents”, and “children” instead of “son or daughter.” The guide prompts museum professionals to think about the bias that can be embedded in interpersonal interactions or exhibit text, such as assumed gender identity or familial relationships.  The LGBTQ Alliance professional network of the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) offers an LGBTQ Welcoming Guidelines for Museums resource. The guidelines establish standards of professional practice to help museums be more inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer staff and visitors.

Here are the links to those two recourses, to help you start thinking about how to integrate inclusive practices into your work, department, and museum:

***

Post by Savannah Kruguer

MA Candidate: Museum Education, Tufts University

Weekly Job Roundup

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings, and please be sure to check last week’s roundup. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:

MuseWeekly                                                                                          HireCulture – Jobs in the Humanities in Massachusetts
HistPres – Unique Historic Preservation Jobs
Job HQ – American Association of Museums
American Association of State and Local History Career Center
New England Museum Association Jobs 

Northeast

South

Midwest

West

 

 

Meet the New Editors!

Another academic year has passed, and it’s time for three new editors to take the reins of the Museum Studies blog! A huge thank you to Claudia, Jane, and Lucy for their hard work on the blog over the past year, and good luck with your future endeavors. We’re so excited to follow in your footsteps and keep producing great content for the Museum Studies blog! 

For our first post, we want to take a moment to introduce ourselves and let you know what content we hope to bring to the blog this year…

Savannah Kruguer

Hello Everyone! My name is Savannah Kruguer, and I am a second-year student in the Museum Education MA program here at Tufts. Growing up in Southern Maine, my mom would often take me and my two siblings to Boston to visit the Museum of Science. From an early age, I loved learning through discovery and hands-on activities at museums. My specific interest in living history sites and object-based learning began after an elementary school field trip to Old Fort Western in Augusta, ME where I got to prepare food in an open hearth and make an 18th-century bed. I found it fascinating to learn about the lives of everyday people through the objects they used. 

I enjoyed visiting museums so much that I wanted to pull back the curtains and explore the possibility of becoming a museum professional. I received my B.A. in Art Conservation and Anthropology with a minor in Museum Studies from the University of Delaware. During my studies, I worked as a preventive conservation intern at the Winterthur Museum Garden and Library and practiced archaeological conservation during a study abroad in Sardinia, Italy. 

After undergrad, I continued to pursue my career as a museum professional by working as a conservation technician for the Naval History and Heritage Command, archaeological collections care technician for the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, and a living history interpreter for Mackinac State Parks. 

I chose Tufts for my graduate studies because of the amazing museum education program and the school’s proximity to so many incredible museum institutions. Through all of my work experiences, I realized that I loved the educational role of museums and engaging K-12 audiences in programming. At Tufts, I have already learned so much about museum pedagogy, writing lesson plans, and DEAI practices. I look forward to the opportunity to use this blog to highlight current conversations in the field, share my museum adventures, and explore engaging museum exhibits and programs.

Francesca Bisi

Hello everyone! My name is Francesca Bisi and I am beginning my second year in the Art History and Museum Studies program here at Tufts University. I hail from Ferrara, a small city south-west of Venice. When I was growing up, I was surrounded by history and art—the looming presence of the Castello Estense, the medieval walls encircling the historic downtown, or the iconic terracotta that colors the city red. Living within a UNESCO World Heritage Site made me very aware of the power and beauty of history, and the importance of both preserving the past and paving the way for new and innovative ways of interpreting and presenting it.

That love never went away. We moved to the United States when I was young, and I remained here to earn my BA in Art History and Italian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. From there, I hopped back across the pond to Europe, where I studied at the University of Edinburgh and received an MSc in History. Yet as I wrapped up the latter program, I realized what I wanted most was to return to art history and museum work.

My most treasured memories from my undergraduate experience were those spent in museums, learning about how to make the collections and the museum itself more accessible to visitors of all backgrounds. Tours for sight-impaired visitors, hands-on experiences unique to the contents of that specific museum, dedicated and driven staff, and storage with rows and rows of objects waiting for the spotlight were truly the thing that excited me most. When I saw that Tufts offered a joint Art History and Museum Studies program, I knew I had found the perfect fit for me.

My interests thus revolve mainly around curatorial and research work. I am specializing in Italian Renaissance art history, and my main focuses within that field are women, convents, queer studies, representations of the “other” or foreign, and depictions of cats. Writing for this blog provides a fantastic opportunity to explore these interests and share them with others. I look forward to engaging with museums in this new way and engaging in conversations with our readers!

Danielle Maurer

Hey, y’all! My name is Danielle Maurer, and I am excited to enter my second year of the Tufts History and Museum Studies MA Program. Born and raised in New Orleans, I have been steeped in the intersection of history, arts, and culture for most of my life! After earning my BAs in History and International Studies at Louisiana State University in 2018, I enjoyed a variety of museum internships, including a summer program in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Medieval Art Department. In New Orleans, I worked in the National WWII Museum’s education department and the New Orleans Jazz Museum’s programs and operations departments for several years before moving to Somerville to attend Tufts.

I am passionate about museum fundraising, leadership, and community engagement initiatives that lift up the artists, scholars, and culture bearers who preserve and define our diverse heritage.  I look forward to sharing exciting opportunities to support museums participating in these important efforts!

Spam prevention powered by Akismet