Museums and Cultural Properties are uniquely positioned to play a meaningful role in promoting social justice and shifting their platform as one for combatting racism and promoting social justice issues.
Here are some of the best practices museums and their counterparts use today to fight racism and promote social justice.
How Museums Are Combating Racism
Taking a Stance as an Anti-Racism Institution
Combating racism is more than avoiding being racist. Museums and institutions are adopting policies and practices that actively fight racism and the systemic injustices that stem from it.
This work includes identifying the current inequities within an institution’s systems and making exhibits and events more inclusive and equitable for all people. It also involves establishing and implementing DEAI initiatives and continuous programming that exposes racism through education and reform.
Proactive Measures to Redesign Exhibits
Many art museums and cultural institutions are proactively improving their exhibits.
For some, this means redesigning exhibits of the past that characterize indigenous views and artifacts as “primitive” or “savage.” For others, it involves formally acknowledging the history of procuring artifacts and the peoples on whose land the institution now exists. Still, for some, this might include returning artifacts and remains taken through colonialism.
The process is one of several actions, not just a single initiative. Working with local indigenous communities and the unique cultures represented in your programs and exhibits is the best place to start when seeking to mend historical social wounds.
How to Promote Social Justice as a Cultural Institution or Museum
Be a Platform for Awareness and Education
Cultural institutions and museums can create impactful collections, exhibits, and programs to highlight systemic racism and bring awareness to social justice issues. The unique platform of these institutions allows the community to learn, engage, and grow their awareness—a decisive step in social justice reform for the community as a whole.
Using Your Museum for Positive Social Change
The history of cultural institutions like museums and art centers will always remain, but how they use their past can make a lasting impact in combating racism and supporting greater social justice in the future.
Institutions can begin by identifying these initiatives in their mission and core values. From here, they can build positive programming that takes a stance against racism and raises awareness for social justice issues. By working with their communities, ways can be found to address past wrongs and heal social wounds through proactive measures. With these best practices in place, an institution can be a positive force for social change.