Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ally & Amplify

Fall, rather than spring, is the time I think about new approaches, new projects and new learning.  I returned home from the AASLH Annual Conference a couple weeks ago with two thoughts on my mind:  how to be an ally and how to amplify more diverse perspectives in our work and in our field.   I know that most of my readers (according to Facebook) can be placed in the emerging professional category.  But this most is really for those of you who are not in that category:  you're in a senior position, or you're a consultant, or you teach, for instance.  (for you EMPs,  get this in front of those people in your work life).

The AASLH conference had lots of important components to me--it gave me a chance to see old friends, to catch up with one mentee, to learn from others, but importantly, to question our approach and our practice.  I'm on AASLH's Leadership and Nominating Committee and over the last year we've had lots of conversations about diversity and inclusiveness in our process and are reworking how we think about AASLH's leaders.  As a result of those conversations, AASLH Council Chair Julia Rose asked me to facilitate a conversation about diversity and AASLH.  The time and place made it into the onsite conference program but we were unexpectedly thrilled to have dozens of people show up to share their perspective on the topic (and even if the word diversity is what we should be talking about rather than a different term).  Participants observed that (I'm paraphrasing) "Diversity is reality. It exists and cannot be changed.  To be inclusive is the choice, the action we can take to value and accept diversity. We can consciously broaden the scope of who we include."

When I thought about that lively, passionate, conversation, I then had to think about what I, personally, can do.   Those actions can fall into two categories:  ally and amplify.  Here's some of what I'm thinking and doing.  


  • As an ally, I occupy a position of privilege on many levels in the museum field and in life.  I can listen and help make space for deep conversations and action,  whether it's about racism, pay equity, gender or a whole range of other issues affecting our field and our communities.
  • To that end, I'm very pleased to be joining Aleia Brown in facilitating a conversation at the upcoming New England Museum Association conference November 4-6 in Portland, Maine. We hope that #MuseumsrepondtoFerguson: Bringing Race Into the Foreground continues to open up conversations--and more importantly--action, about the ways in which museums can address issues of race, no matter where in the country they are located.
  • I'll also be continuing my own small mentor program as a way of creating connections and conversations.  Stay tuned for a full announcement in November.  For me, this project, now in its third year, has greatly broadened my own horizons and perspectives.
  • This year I've been in a couple situations, both professional and random on the street, where someone said something racist.  In one, I spoke up, in the other, I didn't.  I'll try and speak up every time. (Interestingly, it was the professional one where I spoke up)
  • In my role as an AASLH nominating committee member, I'll ally with others who care about a changing professional organization.
  • I'll broaden my information intake (suggestions welcomed!)


  • This blog and other social media give me great platforms, thanks to all of you readers.  I'll continue to share observations, questions and my own learning.  I welcome guest bloggers, so if you have an idea, please be in touch.
  • I'll also do my best to amplify and share the voices of  the growing range of thoughtful diverse museum bloggers raising important questions about our practice.
  • When asked to speak or serve on a panel, I'll try to ensure that a diverse range of voices are always included that it's not just, as has been referenced, "a sea of white women," or even more unrepresentative in our field, the line-up of white men.
  • I can encourage museum leaders at institutions where I work to listen to all sorts of voices--from differing communities and from the staff.  Every institution can design new ways to listen.
  • AASLH has shared a set of aspirations for its work and they include one on diversity and inclusion.  I'll be commenting and encourage you to do the same. 
  • When I work with students, I can make sure that they gain an understanding of key issues in the field and by amplifying diverse voices, create new allies and partnerships.

But why is this post for more senior professionals?  Because all of us need to do better.  We need to listen more and to demand more.  Our perspectives and knowledge are valued, but they are far from the only ones.  What will you do to ally and amplify?

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