Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the limited impact of using the word diversity in museums

Tokenizing diversity does not very far-reaching effects on changing museum viewership...why would it?

Museums must consider ways to help visitors understand what it is that we do in fresh, engaging, practical ways. What we do is promote and preserve culture—not just a dominant white culture—but a shared culture. When communities of color do not see equal representation of cultural heritage in our exhibition schedules and programming, we send the message that museums are founded upon a dominant culture’s values. We imply that visitors of color are invited to participate and reinforce the notion that they somehow exist outside the dominant system. Moving forward I would like to advance our conversations on “diversity” by substituting “diversity” for a more inclusive term such as “fullness” or “completion” which I hope connotes an innovative manner in which the museum can elevate a more integrated vision. I would argue that “diversity” cannot merely exist to provide a diverse experience for a dominant culture. True “diversity” means that the visitor of color would need to feel that their very presence did not constitute the diversity.

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