We’re back from our short break! And to get us going again, we’re picking up where we left off: Museums responding to Ferguson. In our last post, we mentioned there had been a significant amount of discussion taking place on Twitter through the hashtag #museumsrespondtoferguson. In fact, a couple cool museum peeps–Aleia Brown and Adrianne Russell, coordinated a live Twitter chat back on December 17th. Today, they share with us some reflections related to this event. We hope you can join us for the next #museumsrespondtoferguson Twitter chat tomorrow, January 21st at 1-2 PM CST/ 2-3 PM EST. And in the meantime, check out this list of readings Adrianne has compiled to help chat participants (and others) have shared reference points.
* * * *
How did the idea for the chat come about?
The idea for the Twitter chat came up after we worked with some colleagues to issue the Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events. Adrianne mentioned a Twitter chat as a way to continue the conversation, and we agreed to work together to host it.
What were the main objectives?
The initial objective was to begin a conversation about museums’ role in responding to Ferguson. More broadly, we wanted museum professionals to discuss their ideas, and how their institutions addressed race and police brutality, two contemporary issues that have a deep past in this country. Eventually, we wanted the discussion to transcend beyond the events in Ferguson, but that is where we wanted to start. We wanted people to leave knowing that museums were in fact great environments to serve as forums for discussing issues most relevant to communities. Finally, we wanted to provide a sort of “how to.” We knew that there were professionals interested or curious about how museums can include meaningful content about race, but they did not know how. These are huge objectives. We decided to continue hosting live chats to illustrate that matters involving race, police brutality, and community engagement take a great deal of commitment, it’s a continuous journey.
What questions did you explore?
Below is the set of questions we explored during the live chat. We prepared more, but these questions seemed to resonate the most with everyone. The responses we got to these questions was another indication that we needed to continue the chat.
- How have your museums responded to Ferguson?
- How do we want museums/related orgs to respond to race issues?
- Why do some museum pros hesitate to discuss race?
What kind of responses did you get?
We created a Storify that includes an overview of the responses we got. Check it out here.
What surprised you the most from this conversation/what was the most unexpected?
What was most unexpected was the amount of people who were surprised that there are many museums that discourage their employees from discussing Ferguson or race. We have not faced many situations where museums explicitly denied us discussions related to race; but, most of the time we have felt like they skated around the issue, and deemed their skating as sufficient enough for covering race.
Based on your experience with the joint statement and the Twitter chat, what questions do you think remain unexplored or warrant more attention?
For the next session, we want to focus on what museums can do internally to make their efforts to be inclusive more genuine and credible. We had actually planned to get to that during the first chat, but we ended up only getting to the first three questions.
What “next step” do you envision?
In the future, we would like to help museums move beyond discussion to solid actions. Additionally, we can see how the conversation can move to address with more depth how museums can work to dismantle race, gender, economic, and other inequalities.
Do you think twitter is an effective medium for these conversations?
Yes, and no. Twitter is great because we have the ability to reach massive amounts of people quickly. It has allowed us to centralize a nationwide (in some instances, a worldwide) conversation. One of the main drawbacks is the character limit. It’s very difficult to express a complete thought on such heavy issues with so few words.
Please attend the next chat:
Wednesday, January 21st
1-2 PM CST/ 2-3 PM EST