Can Museums Do More than ‘Deplore’ Police Knees on Black Necks?

This post presents analysis of the role of museum’s in addressing racism in our communities & outlines a critique of racist practices by Canadian museums. Also, Rules for Museum Racism Remediation & Examples of Best Practices are listed as well as a final section with a Hopeful Future Projection are provided.


Prologue:

Note: Because I want to give preference to the ideas of others rather than my own (since my personal experience is somewhat disconnected from the matters at hand), I am here setting aside my policy of not using external links in the texts of my blog posts so as to combat distracted attention during the reading of my arguments. Links are usually given only in the References Cited. This subject is singular & it requires a change in my blog practice on this occasion to allow readers to click on links of interest appearing in the body of this post.

This post has been updated on 17, 18, & 19 June 2020:

OK, here we in the museum field are again. We find ourselves in an anti-black racism context characterised by law enforcement members charged with the knee on the neck “police-hold” murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This has sparked an unprecedented outflow of statements by museum institutions & professional organisations. I am therefore prompted to follow up on a 5 ½ year-old blog post connected  to the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. I then was compelled to re-blog that piece 3 years ago after Charlottesville (Thistle 2017).

I engage again today with some trepidation. For the record, I have had very few black colleagues throughout my museum & teaching careers. I have no close contacts who are black & I currently reside in a caucasian-majority community in southwestern Ontario, Canada. I do, however, want to apply my schooling in the social sciences on prejudice, discrimination, & racism to comment on the role of museums in addressing the current world crisis. In this light, I am drawn back to the recent book Museum Activism by Robert R. Janes and Richard Sandell (2019). It urges the instigation of “progressive change” by means of “courageous energy” on the part of museum practitioners who can indeed make effective use of our under-appreciated agency to finally “challenge the immorality of inaction” (Janes & Sandell 2019: xxvii, 2, 18, passim).

As further prologue, 2 days ago I was blessed to come across an anonymous labour of love chalk work of art on a sidewalk signed only “#BLM.” After seeing this several yard-long piece on the concrete medium, I happened to wake up about 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning & was prompted to return to photograph the 142 upper case chalked names in the dark. I am a fan of the Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn whose 1983 “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” lyric “got to kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight” remains a strong influence in my life as is the Scripture “The LORD is known by His justice” (Ps 9:16).

chalk maked printing in capital letters on sidewalk "George Floyd & Say Their Names #BLM"
Sidewalk Black Lives Matter memorial action showing George Floyd’s name as the last of 142 others carefully chalked onto the sidewalk at the corner of Douglas at St. Vincent Street in Stratford, ON, Canada. Photo by the author on 15 June 2020.

Racist Practice Problems with Museums:

There are myriad critiques of museum anti-black racism practice. See for example Rozina (2019) “Boston museum accused of racist ‘no watermelons’ remark” outlining a complaint about the “racial profiling” of a class of black and minority pupils. . . The worse part about all of this is seeing the hurt look on my children’s faces as this was their first time experiencing racism first hand.” Also consider Taylor Renee Aldridge (2016) “Black Bodies, White Cubes: The Problem With Contemporary Art’s Appropriation of Raceinter alia arguing misuse of race-based imagery, referred to as “This is lewd voyeurism masquerading as empathy.”

UPDATE: 17 June 2020: If any more evidence that museums fail miserably to address systemic anti-black racism inside their own walls is needed, please consult Andrea Montiel de Shuman (2020). “No longer in extremis: Today, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignationMuseum 2.0  blog posted  by Seema Rao on 16 June 2020. It is a disturbing account of total institutional tone deafness that resists “leading from below” initiatives as recommended on the Leadership Matters blog. One of the most disturbing revelations in the above detailed account is the unwillingness of the museum’s management team to address the current Black Lives Matters concerns & the current crisis of anti-black racism in the world. As I read, Bob Jane’s (2009) book Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse?, Ms. de Shulman’s former museum is deliberately choosing IRRELEVANCE.

UPDATE 18 June 2020: My original foray into this issue revolving around the role of museums in addressing racism was stimulated by Nina Simon’s (14 December 2014) Museum 2.0 blog post “Joint Statement From Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events” that remains a live link. However, the actual original author Gretchen Jennings informs your blogger here that, “the letter was first posted on Museum Commons on December 11, 2014 and almost simultaneiously then posted by many other bloggers.  You can find [Jennings’] post at Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events – Museum Commons . . . If you would like to read more about the history around that letter here is an article about the whole process. https://www.museumcommons.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/JenningsFerguson.pdf .”

It leads with a statement referring to an accompanying photo of a female hoops team running onto the court wearing black “I can’t breathe” T-shirts:

When basketball players are offering more cogent commentary on racial issues than cultural institutions, you know we have a cultural relevance problem.

Jenning’s blog post referenced an ad hoc group of 13 museum bloggers & colleagues who had produced a

. . . statement about museums’ responsibilities and opportunities in response to the events in Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island. . . New laws and policies will help, but any movement toward greater cultural and racial understanding and communication must be supported by our country’s cultural and educational infrastructure. Museums are a part of this educational and cultural network. . . . As mediators of culture, all museums should commit to identifying how they can connect to relevant contemporary issues irrespective of collection, focus, or mission. . . our posts contain similar phrases such as  “21st century museums,” “changing museum paradigms,” “inclusiveness,” “co-curation,” “participatory” and “the museum as forum” [emphasis added].

The museum bloggers’ central question was: “What should be our role–as institutions that claim to conduct their activities for the public benefit–in the face of ongoing struggles for greater social justice both at the local and national level?”

Answers followed, some of which included:

  • First look within at equity & diversity [e.g. now see American Alliance of Museums (2020b)]
  • Look to community organisations who wish to address [racism] & offer museum auditorium venues so as to “use this moment not only to ‘respond’ but also to ‘invest’ in conversations and partnerships that call out inequity and racism and commit to positive change.”
  • Amplify the statement of the Association of African American Museums [original link in this post is now dead, but see the current National Museum of African-American History & Culture’s Talking About Race/Being Antiracist web page]
  • The silence of other museum organizations sends a message that these issues are the concern only of African Americans and African American Museums.
  • . . . join us in acknowledging the connections between our institutions and the social justice issues highlighted by Ferguson and related events.

Here, I believe we must consider that—much more than the recommended acknowledging, sharing posts, tweets, “checking out” & “looking at” websites with best practices—ACTIONS by museum practitioners & institutions are an absolute necessity.

The critique of racist museum practice found in Aldridge’s (2016) “Black Bodies, White Cubes” article argues “many looked for a different kind of understanding — one that offered a new view onto social justice and racial equity, civic engagement and economic rights. We want to challenge our own entrenched ways of thinking . . .” [emphasis added].

The 7 writers involved in the Ryzik et al. (2020) contribution “Art That Confronts and Challenges Racism: Start Here” asserts the enduring need to:

. . . tackle issues of police brutality, social injustice and racial inequity . . . civic engagement and economic rights. . . America isn’t good with inconvenient memories. From the Native genocide to slavery and Japanese-American internment, the racist violence that made our social order is minimized more than it is taught or given public memorial. It’s one reason lists like this become necessary — a service, but an admission of collective cultural failure. . . Museums could do much more; but for all the solidarity statements, mainstream art museums are caught up in the system too. Even institutions that focus on the history, such as the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., address it in a mode more didactic than visceral, leavened by a celebration of resilience and cultural vibrancy and a default optimism about change. They give everyone — not just white folks — an out [emphasis added].

Racist Museum Practice in Canada:

Responding to the social movement being generated by the alleged George Floyd murder & similarly egregious ‘serve & protect’ folks killing racialized people in the Canadian context, The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) issued Instagram posts on 15 June 2020 “BLACK LIVES MATTER” & statement claiming it is:

. . . devastated by recent anti-black racist events that cause us to reflect deeply on the discrimination that exists in our own communities. Only action can address the inequalities that are the source of systemic racism. . . the National Gallery of Canada pledges to make transformational change that respects and includes the diversity of the Canadian experience. We have a lot of work to do and are committed to taking action” Instagram posts 15 June 2020.

However, the accompanying Instagram comments [apart from social media non-sequiturs like “a lot of people making money from bitcoin mining investments”] reflect a significant amount of skepticism such as:

How many black staff make in the top 10-20% of earned income?. . . What concrete steps has the ngc taken to collect black works and ensure living Canadian black artists are supported . . .?” [Another says,] . . . What are you doing to address the white supremacy rampant throughout your collection, administration, and executive leadership?”[& a third,] . . . “We require a full transparent report of how you will indeed engage with structural racism, hiring, collecting and exhibiting . . . We expect this from you, because you are a huge and historic institution in the Canadian art landscape who has actively participated in the normalization of anti black racism [emphasis added].

Such severe skepticism by members of the public is more than justified. Even Canada’s flagship “first museum solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights”—the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg, MB—now faces headlines in the last week like “CMHR announces workplace review after multiple complaints of racism” from its staff that the Museum has failed to address (Sanders 2020). For example, reporters investigating have found “social media posts alleging a racist and discriminatory work environment. . . . One person said she worked at the museum for four years and experienced the most racism she’d ever seen in her life. . .[the union claims] issues have been raised with management since 2018” (The Canadian Press 2020) [emphasis added].

This type of racist museum practice is not uncommon in our country according to Canadian Governor General Award-winning—& multiply otherwise distinguished—writer Amanda Parris (2020) who authors a stinging critique of a major Canadian museum, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, ON. It also includes other egregious examples of Canadian anti-black racism at a university & two cases of ‘disappeared’ black literary figures, M. NourbeSe Philip pushed away from the Canadian writing scene in the late 1980s through 2008 for challenging the status quo & journalist Desmond Cole whose activism [see the documentary & his new book both titled The Skin We’re In] forced him to abandon his job at the Toronto Star newspaper.

Parris’ article “Canadian cultural institutions have silenced Black voices for years. Can we write a new chapter?” also calls out other museums for systemic anti-Black racism, for example the Art Gallery of Ontario, [In its own defense, see the Art Gallery of Ontario (2020)].and goes on to say:

There are many more examples, but I’m drawing attention to these ones because they involve powerful gatekeepers. . . [it is] imperative that we hold them accountable for the ways that they have remained complicit in perpetuating anti-Black racism. . . alongside the protests and petitions. . . [Parris commends] sharing numerous personal testimonies that call out specific businesses, institutions and organizations for their anti-Black practices. . . [needing an] overwhelming wave of courage. . . [There is] risk involved. Each individual who steps forward faces potential consequences if/when the momentum of this moment passes. . . But their acts of bravery reveal a history of institutionally enforced silencing, erasure, defamation and suppression. . . If history has taught us anything, it’s that Canadian institutions and companies do not welcome the truth when it comes to the realities of systemic racism. They often . . . 1) systematically shut down those who disrupt the status quo, or 2) they symbolically acquiesce, but make only surface-level changes. This ultimately enables systems of power to change in appearance, but stay the same in function. As Esi Edugyan recently wrote in Maclean’s: “The weight of change shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Black people.” Only an organized, contextualized and strategic effort will ensure that this generation is not subjected to the consequences faced by those who came before [emphasis added].

In the case of the Royal Ontario Museum & the controversial 1989 exhibition “Into the Heart of Africa,” Parris outlines

. . . a list of demands that included the closure or re-staging of the exhibit and the hiring of Black people in curatorial and key leadership positions. . . . took 27 years for the museum to finally issue an official apology [see Adams (2016)]. . . A quick glance at the Royal Ontario Museum’s current leadership reveals that Black voices and perspectives are still notably absent. . . It’s time to write a new chapter. . . Social media has shifted the balance of power . . . For all the non-Black folks still reading this article, rather than leaving sympathetic notes in the comments and shaking your head over the woes of the world, now is the time to strategically leverage the moment. Now is the time to demand more from institutions. Now is the time to hold them accountable to their mandates and public statements. And now is the time to protect the whistleblowers who have put it all on the line [emphasis added] {also see ROM Curator Cannizzo (1991), Tator et al. (1998), & Peterson (1999).]

Conclusion:

In the course of preparing this blog post, I have noted many responses to the most recent police killings of black and other racialized people in both Canada & the U.S.A. Many voice the sentiment “enough is enough!” In Canada, separate incidents last week resulting from Royal Canadian Mounted Police operations—one of which was supposed to be a “wellness check”—ended up killing 2 Indigenous people, Chantel Moore & Rodney Levi, in New Brunswick (The Canadian Press Staff 2020).

Let me forcefully state here that what comes next is NOT a joke, but something I say to myself every time I hear the previous very serious & well-meaning cri du coeur. As a child, I was no real fan of the comic character Popeye who solved everything with violence. However, before downing his can of spinach & engaging in roiling episodes of heroically violent fisticuffs, Popeye would always say:

Enough is enough, and enough is too much! [emphasis added].

Now, for every museum practitioner & institution, SURELY, ‘enough’ is too much indeed. Quite apart from necessary museum exhibition & programmatic activity—remedial ACTIONS directed at fixing institutional racism that must be driven by those impacted by our structural HR and interpersonal discriminations are now obligatory. [See useful resources for this work under: the Rules for Museum Racism Remediation, Examples of Best Practice, Hopeful Future Projection, & References Cited sections below the following image.]

blue chalked clenched fist symbol of Black Lives Matter with 3 names visible
Sidewalk Black Lives Matter memorial action showing just 3 of the 142 names carefully chalked onto the sidewalk at the corner of Douglas at St. Vincent Street in Stratford, ON, Canada. Photo by the author on 15 June 2020.

Rules for Museum Racism Remediation: [Note: in what follows, black underlined text is my emphasis added.]

  • “Talking About Race” National Museum of African American History & Culture Smithsonian Institution at https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/being-antiracist (accessed 13 June 2020)  “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist” Angela Y. Davis has stated, “Race does not biologically exist, yet how we identify with race is so powerful, it influences our experiences and shapes our lives.” [Otherwise,] . . Being antiracist is fighting against racism. . . . No one is born racist or antiracist; these result from the choices we make. Being antiracist results from a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society. Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do.”
  • Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  “How to Confront Online Racism?” https://museeholocauste.ca/en/resources-training/how-to-confront-online-racism/ (accessed 13 June 2020). “The goal of this toolkit is to inform the public about different ways to confront online racism.”
  • American Alliance of Museums “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field.” (accessed 16 June 2020).
  • James Heaton / Jan 20, 2014 “Museums and Race.” TRONVIC Brand Strategy & Management Consulting at https://www.tronviggroup.com/museums-and-race/  (accessed 13 June 2020). “I think museums’ intentions are genuine and good, but I also think that despite the best intentions, we have a problem, and the problem runs deep. . . . [Do museums operate by] unintentionally perpetuating exclusionary attitudes toward minorities? It seems that many institutions do not realize that their “color blindness,” in practice, easily translates into this kind of exclusion. The 90% attending white population is not a reflection of the US population today, and it will be even less so in the future.”
  • Updated on 19 June 2020 as follows:
  • American Alliance of. Museums “Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion: Racial Equity and Inclusion Plan Primer.” Last updated June 12, 2020 at https://www.aam-us.org/2020/06/11/equity-and-inclusion-plan-primer/?utm_source=American+Alliance+of+Museums&utm_campaign=d25a7c8ad3-Aviso_June16_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f06e575db6-d25a7c8ad3-37245349 (accessed 19 June 2020). “Advancing racial and ethnic diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion on boards can be a daunting task for any institution. . . Advancing racial and ethnic diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion on boards can be a daunting task for any institution. To do this, though, we must start from wherever we are in our learning journey, with the people we have on our boards, on our staff, and in our communities right now. . .”
  • Baldwin, Joan. 2020. “Moving Forward: Complicity vs. Action in a Post-George Floyd World.” Leadership Matters blog posted on 15 June 2020 at https://leadershipmatters1213.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/moving-forward-complicity-vs-action-in-a-post-george-floyd-world/ (accessed 19 June 2020). Under the first step LEARN, “If you haven’t read James Baldwin since college, it’s time. And read what black women have to say. . . [e.g.] Dr. Porchia Moore’s post for Incluseum. . . we fragile white folk who can’t see the forest for the trees. . . McNamara’s “Why Your Museum’s BLM Statement Isn’t Enough,” [&] . . . Carita Gardner’s piece on ways out of complicity. . . LISTEN . . . your colleagues of color may pass through a series of gauntlets unknown to you just getting to work every day or going out on a lunchtime errand. You need to hear and understand those experiences around race precisely because they’re not yours. . . Systemic racism requires systemic change, and it’s individual change that creates organizational transformation. . . ” [emphasis in original].

Examples of Best Practice:

  • The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Alabama museum dedicated to the history of lynching https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/us/lynching-memorial-alabama.html (accessed 13 June 2020). This points to effectiveness of the exhibition on lynching & goes on to address other admirable forms of art from the music of Nina Simone’s ‘Mississippi Goddam’ (1964) through a 2007 movie “Talk to Me” (2007) about the life of D.C. radio personality Petey Greene.
  • Adams (2016) reports on the Royal Ontario Museum’s apology for ‘racist’ African exhibition [which gives various plans put forward by the Museum that, 4 years later, now require fact checking], but does present one interesting option arising from a weekend-long symposium involving museum officials and African-Canadians, several of whom had been active in protesting Into the Heart of Africa. . .[that] floated the idea of starting a separate African-Canadian museum” [but see caution stated by Ryzik et al. above].
  • UNESCO. 2017.  “Us and Them – From Prejudice to Racism” Muséum national d’histoire naturelle – Musée de l’Homme in Paris from 31 March 2017 to 8 January 2018 at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/exhibition_us_and_them_from_prejudice_to_racism/ (accessed 13 June 2020). “aims to shed new light on racist behaviour and prejudices . . . Racism and discrimination start and persist with ignorance and fear of what is different. It is to fight against ignorance, to fight against fear and to celebrate our differences. . . What is the reality of “races” from a genetic point of view? What are the arguments against the supporters of a division of humanity into “races”? . . . Genetics show us that human “races” have no scientific legitimacy. And yet, racist behaviour persists, prejudices resist.” Later in 2019 a travelling exhibition was launched at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago, Chile. https://en.unesco.org/news/us-and-them-prejudice-racism-opening-new-exhibition-museum-memory-and-human-rights-santiago  (accessed 13 June 2020).
  • Jennings, Gretchen. 2020. “A Statement of Acknowledgement. ”Museum Commons blog 31 May 2020 at https://museumcommons.com/2020/05/a-statement-of-acknowlegement.html (accessed 19 June 2020). “What we need to do before we can issue any expressions of outrage or protest regarding the murder of George Floyd and the untold numbers of black people who have been killed by racial prejudice in this country is to acknowledge our continuous and persistent participation in this violence. . .”

Hopeful Future Projection:

References Cited:

Adams, James. 2016. “Royal Ontario Museum offers apology for ‘racist’ African exhibition” Toronto: The Globe and Mail published 9 November at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/royal-ontario-museum-offers-apology-for-racist-african-exhibition/article32784266/ (accessed 13 June 2020).

Aldridge, Taylor Renee. 2016. “Black Bodies, White Cubes: The Problem With Contemporary Art’s Appropriation of Race” Artnews July 11, 2016 11:30am at https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/black-bodies-white-cubes-the-problem-with-contemporary-arts-appropriation-of-race-6648/ (accessed 13 June 2020).

American Alliance of Museums. 2020a. “Racism, Unrest, and the Role of the Museum Field.” AAM Virtual Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo recording Posted on Jun 9, 2020 https://www.aam-us.org/2020/06/09/racism-unrest-and-the-role-of-the-museum-field/. AAM “came together to hear from Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III, and Lori Fogarty on the museum field’s role in combating racism (accessed 16 June 2020).

American Alliance of Museums. 2020b. “Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion” web page search at https://www.aam-us.org/?s=diversity (accessed 16 June 2020).

Art Gallery of Ontario. 2020. “Talks: How to Talk About Anti-Black Racism: Part 2” posted Wednesday June 24, 1 pm at https://ago.ca/events/how-talk-about-anti-black-racism-part-2 (accessed 19 June 2020).

Butler, S. 1999. Contested Representations: Revisiting Into the Heart of Africa. Canada: Gordon & Breach.

Cannizzo, Jeanne. 1991. ‘Exhibiting cultures: ‘‘Into the Heart of Africa.’’’ Visual Anthropology Review 7, pp. 150–160.

Parris, Amanda 2020. “Canadian cultural institutions have silenced Black voices for years. Can we write a new chapter?” CBC Arts Last Updated: June 8 at https://www.cbc.ca/arts/canadian-cultural-institutions-have-silenced-black-voices-for-years-can-we-write-a-new-chapter-1.5600064 (accessed 15 June 2020).

Petersen, Klaus & Hutchinson, Allan C. 1999. Interpreting Censorship in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Rozina Sini. 2019. “Boston museum accused of racist ‘no watermelons’ remark” BBC News 25 May 2019 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48402601 (accessed 13 June 2020).

Ryzik, Melena et al. [6 other writers Wesley Morris, Mekado Murphy, Reggie Ugwu, Pierre-Antoine Louis, Salamishah Tillet, and Siddhartha Mitter]. 2020 “Art That Confronts and Challenges Racism: Start Here” New York Times Published June 4, 2020 Updated June 8, 2020 at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/arts/racism-writings-books-movies.html (accessed 13 June 2020).

Sanders, Carol. 2020. “CMHR announces workplace review after multiple complaints of racism” Winnipeg Free Press Last Modified: 06/11/2020 1:03 PM at https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/cmhr-announces-workplace-review-after-multiple-complaints-of-racism-571175732.html (accessed 16 June 2020].

Simon, Nina. 2014. “Joint Statement From Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events.” Museum 2.0 blog posted December 15, 2014 at http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/search?q=Joint+statement+from+museum+bloggers (accessed 16 June 2020) [author corrected on advice from Gretchen Jennings above].

Tator, Carol, Frances Henry,  & Winston Mattis. 1998. Challenging Racism in the Arts: Case Studies of Controversies & Conflict. Toronto: University of Toronto Press https://books.google.ca/books?id=DQ_rAAAAMAAJ&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=Royal+Ontario+Museum (accessed 18 June 2020).

The Canadian Press. 2020. “Human rights museum criticized, employees say work environment racist” The National Post first published June 11, 2020 at https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/human-rights-museum-criticized-employees-say-work-environment-racist (accessed 16 June 2020).

The Canadian Press Staff. 2020. “Zero-tolerance: Top Indigenous leader calls for systemic change for policing.” CTV News published Monday, June 15, 2020 11:38AM ADT at https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/zero-tolerance-top-indigenous-leader-calls-for-systemic-change-for-policing-1.4984494 (accessed 16 June 2020).

Thistle, Paul C. 2017. “Museum Workers & Social Justice?” Critical Museology Miscellanea blog posted August 9, 2017 at https://miscellaneousmuseology.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/museum-workers-social-justice/ (accessed 15 June 2020) [a slightly revised re-post of my original 7 December 2014 Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers blog post of the same title].

 

Author: Paul C. Thistle

Paul C. Thistle is the former Curator & CAO of The Sam Waller Museum (1983-1995) and most recently Curator at the Langley Centennial Museum & National Exhibition Centre (2006-2009). He has 26+ years of mission and management work in museums. He writes the Solving Task Saturation for Museum Workers & the Critical Museology Miscellanea blogs. In the field of ethnohistory, he is the author of the national, provincial, and academic award winning book Indian-European Trade Relations in the Lower Saskatchewan River Region to 1840. Manitoba Native Studies II and related journal articles such as "The Twatt Family, 1780-1840: Amerindian, Ethnic Category, or Ethnic Group Identity?" in The Western Metis: Profile of a People. He has teaching experience at the university, college, high school, museum programming, and professional development levels. He has many conference presentations to his credit, including at the 2014 Canadian Museums Association Annual Conference, Toronto, ON & the 2012 American Association of Museums annual conference in Minneapolis, MN. His educational background includes an Interdisciplinary M.A. in history and anthropology and a B.Ed. in cross-cultural and museum education from the University of Manitoba, a B.A. in anthropology and history from the University of Waterloo, and a Museology Certificate from the University of Winnipeg.

5 thoughts on “Can Museums Do More than ‘Deplore’ Police Knees on Black Necks?”

    1. More critical analysis on issues involved in this post includes the following:

      Balzer, David. 2020. “Opinion: The Persistence of Structural Racism in Canadian Cultural Institutions.” Hyperallergic posted July 29, 2020 at https://hyperallergic.com/577899/the-persistence-of-structural-racism-in-canadian-cultural-institutions/ (accessed 4 August 2020).

      Inter alia, the author states: “At major Canadian cultural organizations, the influence of money does the work to uphold racism. . . . Institutional antiracism, if genuinely desired, cannot be achieved without resources. Pledges and action plans mean nothing without them.”

      Also see the following:

      Davis, Lillian O’Brien. 2020. “Can I Get a Witness” canadianart posted 16 July 2020 at https://canadianart.ca/features/can-i-get-a-witness/ (accessed 6 August 2020).

      “Our humanity is not being taken seriously. Organizations capitalize on the spectacle of Black death. Black people in Canada and America are deanimated and made into artifacts, objects of study in galleries that only are meant to represent suffering and death.”

      The above article later was responded to by 10 staff members, some of whom were implicated in the piece at:

      Edmonson,Tess et al. [9 other staff]. 2020. “A Letter.” canadianart posted 31 July 2020 at https://canadianart.ca/features/a-letter/ (accessed 6 August 2020).

      Well worth the read.

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  1. Dear Colleagues:

    Another very significant contribution to this broad & imperative issue is found in the 23 June 2020 Features section of canadianart. Author Sean O’Neill (who also contributed to the CBC Radio One Q programme resource cited in the post to which this comment is attached) writes incisively about “A Crisis of Whiteness in Canada’s Art Museums.” [Has anyone else noticed that the art museum community appears to be MUCH more self-reflexive than other types of heritage institutions in this country?]

    In summary, O’Neill’s research found that, “At Canada’s four largest art museums, the top leadership is all white—and the majority of their boards and senior leadership is too. What does this say about the possibilities for change in a moment when institutions are responding to calls for structural transformation?

    See this important piece at https://canadianart.ca/features/a-crisis-of-whiteness/ (accessed 2 July 2020).

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  2. Much more ‘grist for this mill’ is found in the 16 June 2020 post on the Museum 2.0 blog by guest columnist Andrea Montiel de Shuman titled “Today, it is with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation” under the heading by blog curator Seema Rao “No longer in extremis” at http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2020/06/no-longer-in-extremis.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+museumtwo+%28Museum+2.0%29 (accessed 17 June 2020). This is a disturbing account of institutional total tone deafness that resists “leading from below” initiatives recommended on the Leadership Matters blog. Related to this Critical Museology Miscellanea post, one of the most disturbing revelations is the unwillingness of the museum management to address the current Black Lives Matters concerns & the current crisis of anti-black racism in the world. As I read, Bob Jane’s (2009) book Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse?, Ms. de Shulman’s former museum is deliberately choosing IRRELEVANCE.

    Like

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