Museums and Diversity in the 21st Century

 “If you do what you have always done, you’ll be where you’ve always been.”

-Ron Crouch[i]

For a number of years, diversity was not a priority for many museums; indeed, it was not until the winter of 2004 that the AAM organized the Museums and Diversity National Initiative.[ii] This initiative caused did museums reexamine the subject of diversity and found that while their mission statements were intended to serve the public, they had not been actively listening to their public.Since 2004, many museums have taken steps in an effort to reach the broadest audience possible, but statistics still show that many museums are far behind in funding these initiatives. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy released a paper by Holly Sidford entitled “Fusing Arts, Culture, and Civil Change”, in which she showed that “only 10% of arts foundation funding goes to minority-led organizations, and the higher a foundation’s funding in the arts, the less likely their money goes to support organizations serving low-income or underrepresented audiences.”[iii]

So what can a museum do to reach a broad audience? Maria Vann, Statewide Program Associate at the Fenimore Art Museum, believes that having an advocate who understands the needs of a diverse audience is essential to every museum. While many museums talk of diversity, she feels not enough is being done to address these needs. If museums wish to reach broad audiences, more funding must be allotted to these initiatives. Vann believes “Museums are about service and ultimately, if a museum serves and supports the public, the public will support you.”

How has your museum served the public by attracting diverse audiences in these tough economic times?

[i] Crouch, Ron. “Rules for a New Demographic Ballgame.” Museum News, May. – Jun. 2001, 43-64.

[ii]”AAM: Museums and Diversity.” AAM: Welcome to the American Association of Museums. http://www.aam-us.org/sp/m-and-d.cfm (accessed October 30, 2011).

[iii] Simon, Nina. “Equity in Arts Funding: We’re Not There Yet. We’re Not Even Close..” Museum 2.0. http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/(accessed October 29, 2011).

-Interview with Maria Vann, State Program Associate, New York State Historical Association, October, 26, 2011.

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