In our Introduction to Museums course we are learning about how museums can better embrace diversity. I had the opportunity to interview Maria Vann, Director of the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howes Cave, N.Y. My discussion with Maria enlightened me about a variety of issues relating to incorporating the history of diverse populations in museums, and creating exhibits and programs that honor the history of the Haudenosaunee people.
Maria believes museums need to work towards bringing in visitors from different backgrounds. Her staff is working with the BOCES program and with schools in the capital region to welcome school groups from different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. It is also crucial that museum exhibits and programs attract diverse populations and incorporate issues of diversity. Vann believes that if there is some controversy museums are doing a good job of creating dialogue because visitors deserve to know different perspectives.
In order to achieve broader museum exhibits staff members should also bring different backgrounds to exhibits and discussions. The staff needs to work on making exhibits reflective of the cultures they are presenting. To avoid offending the group you are presenting and to have exhibits that reflect the group’s perspective you need to engage community representatives, and have open discussion about why an exhibit could be offensive. What are some other ways museums can include people from diverse backgrounds, and create an environment for dialogue about diversity?