In an earlier Lucidea post, we reviewed what Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion means in the museum field and why it’s important. This post will build on that foundation and offer seven steps to help kick-start a DEAI practice at your museum.
Museum DEAI Practices
In order for museums to be truly open to and serve all audiences, staff must be aware of the societal disparities and gaps that interplay with museum operations decisions and programming. To address this issue, museum Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) practices have emerged and are gaining momentum within the museum field. There are academic articles and working groups reporting on the area in more detail, but to begin, here are the first seven steps to help you build a sincere DEAI practice:
7 Steps to Kick-Start Museum DEAI Practices:
- Educate museum staff on what each aspect of DEAI represents and why it’s important for the museum to build a good DEAI practice. Once staff are up to speed they can begin contributing to the DEAI discussion (and strategic plan work), and will be better able to implement DEAI within their departments.
- Craft a DEAI statement for the museum to help guide DEAI work and signal to stakeholders the museum’s commitment to DEAI.
- Apply DEAI to the strategic plan and articulate where DEAI activities will fit to help support both the strategic plan and the museum’s commitment to a good DEAI practice.
- Task museum departments with identifying how they can each implement DEAI within their work.
- For projects that are already underway or poised to start, reflect on how DEAI can be incorporated or enhanced.
- Don’t be afraid to solicit outside help if the museum is having a difficult time building a DEAI practice. Work with an expert to help guide strategic planning and to craft specific activities that help meet the museum’s commitment to DEAI.
- As DEAI is an emerging museum principle there is room for innovation and discovery regarding how DEAI activities are applied to museum work. As such, there are grant funding opportunities that can help facilitate a museum’s work in this area.
Who Can Start a Museum DEAI Practice?
Anyone can start a DEAI practice at a museum, from a Board Member to the staff person within a department. What’s important for right now is that a DEAI practice is started. If you’re a lone-staff person who wants to start a DEAI practice, the good news is that you can start applying DEAI to your work within the museum. Eventually, as you work and as you share your passion for DEAI practices you will influence fellow staff and build a practice from the bottom up. Or, if you’re an executive director who wants to shift the way your museum operates to better emulate DEAI practices then you can absolutely implement from the top down too. Eventually, the most impactful DEAI practice is one that is implemented at all levels of the museum and within every department.
As you get started it will be easy to feel overwhelmed or defeated. During these times it’s important to remember that good DEAI is a practice. It’s something that we’ll have to work at every day to better understand and implement, and we’re going to make mistakes. Remember that you’re not alone, and that each institution is currently working on their own museum diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion practices. You can always reach out to peers, experts, and professional organizations for ideas, support, and resources. This is a practice, so begin, experiment, and adjust.
Rachael Cristine Woody
Consultant, author, and blogger Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. Learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for museum collections management and digitization, which can be used to support internal stakeholders.
And please stay tuned for Rachael’s next webinar, “DEAI and What it Means for Your Museum”, coming soon.
V. Mary Abraham is an author, consultant and facilitator who has been active in legal industry knowledge management since 1991.
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