AAM’s Diversity and Inclusion Policy Statement Part 2

This week, we feature part 2 of our interview with William Harris, Senior Vice President of Development and Marketing at California Science Center Foundation and  Vice Chair of the AAM Board of Directors and Auntaneshia Staveloz, State and Community Partnerships Manager at American Alliance of Museums and Board Officer at the Association of African American Museums regarding AAM’s Diversity and Inclusion policy statement (READ PART 1 HERE). Below, you’ll get a better a sense of how you can get involved and share your experiences with diversity and inclusion initiatives at your museum.

As always, we invite you to add to the conversation by adding thoughts, questions, and/or comments below.

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The policy statement includes a call to action that is composed of 4 questions:

  1. How might you use the diversity and inclusion policy to inform your work?
  2. How would you prioritize the work that needs to be done?
  3. Do you have models of policy statements, programs, business practices, partnerships, exhibits, etc. that demonstrate how your institution/group have addressed issues of diversity and inclusion in your museum?
  4. How would you define the categories of inclusive practices in museums?

What is the role of this call to action in regards to the policy statement?

A: The call to action piece was about engaging and acknowledging the field on the work they have been doing. As a membership organization, we operate as an association that supports the professional development of museums and museum professionals broadly. We acknowledged in the development of this policy that we aren’t a museum, and so the call to action was really about calling attention to and learning from the work being done in the field. By bringing light and awareness to some of those existing programs, we hope to build an arsenal of resources that we can broadly disseminate so that people can say “oh, that museum over there is already doing a program like the one we’ve been trying to do here for some time!”

Another part of the call to action was, while we’ve come up with the diversity and inclusion policy, I wanted to get a sense of how people were already defining diversity and inclusion in their institution. I wanted to start thinking of a taxonomy of all the characteristics or ways that people can think of diversity and inclusion. To date, we have received a few models of diversity and inclusion policies and implementation plans that are a part of some institutions’ strategic planning documents. Some people have forwarded information about exhibitions that address some area of diversity and inclusion. We also received a few research articles highlighting some aspects on the issue, mostly geared towards community engagement of various audiences. We have also received responses from people saying “we don’t have a diversity and inclusion policy and we are inspired to start thinking about this for our own institution so that we can adopt a diversity and inclusion policy statement.”

Acceptance of materials and resources will remain open ended. The initial July call to-action was a notification to the field to get the conversation started. As things come in, I will be reviewing the content of what we have and connect with the Information Center Manager to identify some of the gaps in the resources we currently have. The goal in collecting the information would be to work towards a “how-to’ publication and to highlight various aspects of diversity and inclusion themes that would be featured via the Alliance’s website, monthly AVISO e-communication and working towards a diversity and inclusion magazine issue. An example would be featuring one or several museums that are doing exemplary work in their institutions around access for different ability group or serving another diverse population.

Concretely, how can Incluseum readers submit more examples to you?

A: As a membership organization that is a national facilitator of things happening in the field, we are always open to hearing about and being aware of different things that are happening in different facets of the world that haven’t necessarily been on our radar or that we haven’t seen yet. So calling our attention to those things would be beneficial. People can send models and resources to my attention: Auntaneshia Staveloz, astaveloz@aam-us.org

How else might Incluseum readers help in these policy efforts?

W: I would encourage people to become AAM members. The great thing with our new membership structure is that you can join any professional network you want. So if you become a member and join the diversity professional network, or DIVCOM, you then get plugged in to that group’s listserv and can post to it and receive information about what’s going on. I can say that the leadership of the AAM looks at how many people sign up for the different professional networks so that it can better align its priorities to the field and the Alliance. The other important thing is that the professional networks play a very important role in developing sessions for the annual meeting and that’s another great way to maintain visibility and consciousness on the topic of diversity and inclusion. So, I would encourage people to join in and participate, because the power is in participation.

A: To add to that, DIVCOM is the pool of professionals we go to first when we’re building advisory groups or content councils that can help us facilitate diversity and inclusion work. It’s a great place for members to be involved in broad level conversations.

 To conclude, we’ve recently hosted several blog posts that explored or alluded to the power of language. Why did you choose the terms “diversity” and “inclusion”? How did you develop your definitions for those terms?

W: I think people have a basic understanding of what diversity and inclusion is and I think it helped people understand in general what we were aspiring to do. To come up with a definition that was appropriate to AAM, we looked at examples from other organizations, looked at our own policy, and went from there. We then vetted the definition among stakeholder groups, which included the Board, Professional Networks, and Regional Associations to get their feedback and response. The definitions produced in this process apply to AAM and are also intended to apply to our membership and what we would expect of our members.

A: Using the words diversity and inclusion was part of what the diversity task force agreed on, but the idea was to look at diversity in a comprehensive way, looking at the people part of it along with behavior, family make-up, and socio-economic status. In the process, we tried to be as representative as possible of what we mean when we talk of diversity.

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