Categories
Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice    News

Update on the BCMA’s Ongoing Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: August 2021

 April 12, 2021

The BC Museums Association is committed to supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the museum and cultural sector and in our own organizational practices. A key component of this commitment is being open and transparent with our community. Moving forward, we are committing to providing quarterly updates about the steps we are taking to support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. If you have feedback or would like to share your thoughts, we encourage you to contact us at any time. To read our past updates, please visit this playlist.

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) is working on a multi-year project called Museums For Me that seeks to engage Canadians in dialogue about the value of museums and their role in our society. The BCMA is working with AMA to support this work and to disseminate the results from their surveys and focus groups. We had the opportunity to preview some of the early data from the first phase of the project last week.

Many of the findings reinforce data from other sources; for example, AMA has found that 80% of respondents agree that museums are credible sources of information, rating the trustworthiness of museums higher than newspapers (48%) or television (33%). This data is nearly identical to a similar study from the United States. Where the new Canadian data differs from the US study is in how community members feel museums should use these high levels of public trust.

In the US study, around 75% of respondents feel that “museums should suggest or recommend certain behaviours or ways for the general public to support its causes and mission.” However, in the Canadian study, only 40% of respondents agreed that “museums should take a stand in the presentation of exhibits challenging the status quo.” And additionally, only 40% agreed that “the museum’s job is to help us understand ‘the present.’” 

So what does this mean? Do Canadians only trust museums because they “stay in their lane” and don’t comment on contemporary issues in society? Or do Canadians not fully understand and appreciate the roles that museums can play? I would suggest that both are true.

While the idea that museums are not neutral is increasingly well-known and agreed upon by people working in or connected to the museum sector, this idea is still fairly new to most Canadians. For many, the idea of “neutrality” brings to mind impartiality, objectivity, and a lack of bias – broadly seen as good things. But for those more familiar with colonial origins of museums and the history of unequal power relations in how museums use their supposed objectivity to present information, it is clear that museums are not neutral, because, to quote #MuseumsAreNotNeutral co-presenter Mike Murawski:

“White supremacy thrives within this tyranny of the universal, the neutral, the apolitical, the fair and balanced, and the objective. Acknowledging that museums are not neutral is a meaningful and urgent step toward gaining awareness of the powerful role that these forces play within these institutions”

So how do we reconcile our publics’ belief that museums should be neutral with our moral obligation to use our platforms to actively advocate for a better world? We ground every aspect of our practice in action, we strive to do better, and we stay the course.

Because some community members think that museums must remain neutral, be prepared for pushback when you try something new – whether that’s renovating a beloved exhibition, incorporating new voices into your museum, or working to actively involve underrepresented or marginalized community members in your museum.

At the BCMA, we recently saw this ourselves. In June we published a resource post exploring the #CancelCanadaDay hashtag and offering suggestions for how members could reflect or engage with these ideas in their own programming and commemorations. In response to this post we received a number of very strongly worded emails, some decrying our “screwball, left-wing, woke [profanity] organization.” But it’s important not to let a – sometimes vocal – minority intimidate you into not taking action. 

As the Museums for Me data shows, our sector enjoys a tremendous amount of public trust and it is critical that we use this trust to advocate for a brighter future – even if that means incurring the wrath of anonymous internet commenters. 

 

-Ryan Hunt

BCMA Executive Director

A group of people standing and talking

Since our previous update, the BCMA has taken the following actions to support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion:

Updates

Summer Anti-Racism Series: In our April update we shared our early plans to host a summer anti-racism series and we are pleased to say that registrations for this series broke our all-time registration records! If you were unable to attend, two of the sessions are available online as recordings:

Thank you to the panellists for your time, ideas, and passion and thank you to the more than 1,200 people who registered for these three sessions! While speakers are still being finalized, we will explore more anti-racism and equity themes at our 2021 online conference. Visit our conference portal for the latest information and to register.

We would also like to thank the Western Museums Association for partnering with us on the keynote webinar with #MuseumsAreNotNeutral co-presenters La Tanya S. Autry and Mike Murawski. 

A very special thank you to France Trépanier and Chris Creighton-Kelly from Primary Colours/Couleurs primaires for their partnership and support in developing and hosting our virtual workshop “Exploring Decolonizing Not-for-Profit Organizations”. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Vancouver Foundation in helping us make this important virtual workshop a reality.

Repatriation Call to Action: On International Museums Day, May 18, 2021, with the support of the BCMA Indigenous Advisory Committee, we launched a national call to action exhorting all publicly-funded institutions to repatriate ancestral human remains and burial items.

To date, 14 institutions have signed this call to action and we continue to curate resources to assist museums and cultural organizations in their repatriation efforts. To sign the call or to see a collection of example repatriation policies, please visit the BCMA’s Indigenous Culture & Heritage Portal

Please note the resources on the Indigenous Culture & Heritage Portal are currently being reorganized to increase ease of access and searchability by topic. We hope to be able to share the improved resource pages in the coming weeks.

IBPOC Network: The IBPOC Network continues to work to support and meet the needs of IBPOC professionals in our field. Starting in May, regular resource playlists have been uploaded to the website with resources gathered by Network Coordinator Sarah Wang. These resources invite the readers to listen, learn and take action. 

In June, the IBPOC Network released a survey to the community in order to better understand the needs and interests of IBPOC museum professionals in the province. The information gathered in the survey is helping to guide programming created through this network. June was also the start of the IBPOC Network Tea and Talk series, a regularly scheduled, safe digital space for IBPOC professionals to meet, chat and support each other. 

The IBPOC Network continued its programming through the summer months, releasing the first podcast episode of a series, an interview with Amina Chergui of the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. This series explores what brought museum professionals, emerging and established, from art galleries to historic house museums, to this sector, what makes them excited about their work, and what they’d like to see change in the future. July also saw the network’s first webinar, A Conversation with Vanessa Kwan and Nya Lewis, where Vanessa Kwan, artist/curator and Program Director of grunt gallery, and Nya Lewis, independent curator and Founder and Director of BlackArt Gastown chatted about how curators negotiate with both institutions and the public on community needs, history, and permanence. Thank you, Vanessa and Nya for joining us and for your expertise and candor!

More webinars, resources, and podcasts will be created and released throughout the summer. 

Continued Work to Improve Internal Systems and Practices: The BCMA staff and Council are committed to continuing to improve our internal systems and practices to build a more just and equitable association. BCMA Council and staff completed a professional development training session with Career Contacts on DEIA fundamentals in May and actively participated in the virtual workshop “Exploring Decolonizing Not-for-Profit Organizations.”

We will also adopt Animikii’s policy that allows staff to substitute statutory holidays for culturally significant days of their choosing to make our workplace more inclusive of individuals who might not want to observe national holidays that are derived from very specific nationalistic, cultural and religious criteria. Animikii has made this policy template open source and they encourage other organizations to adopt it into their HR policies.

Honesty and transparency are a critical part of this work and we welcome our members’ feedback on how we can continue growing and improving. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts, please contact us at any time. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss how the BCMA can support your organization’s own justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work, we would be happy to hear from you. This work will take time, but together we can use the transformative power of museums to reinvent our sector for the betterment of everyone.

Actions

Roundup: With the departure of Roundup editor Dr. Lindsay Foreman, we have the opportunity to reassess how Roundup is created and published and will act to make the magazine more equitable and reach new audiences.

For decades, Roundup magazine has succeeded due to the generous volunteer efforts of our members. Members volunteer their time to submit articles and over the years have also volunteered as editors and review committees. While volunteer contributions have long been essential to professional associations like the BCMA, we recognize that everyone should be equitably compensated for their time, ideas, and efforts – and this is especially true in the arts & culture sector where all too often people are asked to donate their time.

Starting with the next issue of Roundup, all contributors and all guest editors will be offered an honorarium for their contributions. More details on upcoming themes, compensation, calls for proposals, and how to submit to Roundup, will be shared in a forthcoming blog post.

Annual Conference: We have launched registration for our 2021 Conference and are excited to offer both subsidized tickets for as little as $16 and free admission through conference bursaries to ensure that the month-long event is as accessible as possible for all sector professionals and volunteers. We encourage students interested in the museum & heritage sector, IBPOC professionals, unemployed/underemployed culture and heritage professionals, and emerging professionals who have worked in the museum sector for less than five (5) years to apply for a 2021 Conference bursary.

If you are an established professional and wish to help support new voices to participate in the conference, we encourage you to pay it forward and add a “Museum Champion” ticket to your registration. Each Museum Champion ticket purchased sponsors an underrepresented, underemployed, or emerging museum professional, student, or volunteer to take part in our 2021 Conference.

To ensure that all speakers are compensated for their time, ideas, and contributions to making our 2021 Conference a success, we are offering honoraria for participating speakers, presenters, and panellists. 

Lightning Talks: Do you have a project, idea, or call to action that supports justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, or decolonizing practices in the cultural heritage sector? Share your experiences and help inspire your colleagues to take action in a 5-minute lightning talk. We are convinced that together, we can build a brighter, more inclusive future! 

All lightning talk presenters will receive free conference registration. Apply before August 25 by submitting a proposal on our website.

Council Recruitment: The BCMA’s AGM is scheduled for Oct 21, 2021 at 10 am and nominations are open for the BCMA board of directors. Do you want to help support museums, galleries, and heritage organizations across the province? Do you have ideas to help shape the future of the BCMA? Do you know someone who wants to make a difference in the sector? Nominate yourself or another member today!

The BCMA is committed to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the museum and cultural sector and in our own organizational practices. We strive to have a Council that reflects the diverse experiences, backgrounds, and geographic representations of our sector and therefore encourage applications from members with the following backgrounds/experiences:

We highly encourage members from historically underrepresented or marginalized groups to join the BCMA Council. 

Currently, the Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland regions are well represented on the BCMA Council, so we encourage applicants from the Cariboo, Kootenay, North Coast, Nechako, Northeast, or Thompson-Okanagan regions to apply (if you aren’t sure which region you belong to, the BCMA generally follows these regional guidelines).

Members from smaller organizations (for example organizations with budgets under $300,000 annually) are encouraged to apply to help ensure that the BCMA continues to support the ever-evolving needs of smaller museums, galleries, and cultural organizations.

We also encourage members who are emerging museum professionals in the first 10 years of their careers in the sector to stand for nomination. Joining the BCMA Council is an excellent opportunity to expand your professional network and gain valuable experience in a variety of areas, including financial management, advocacy, and policy review/development.

To learn more about open positions, areas of responsibility, and how to submit a nomination, visit this page.

Decolonization, Repatriation, and Allyship Podcast: Leia Patterson and Koy Tayler have launched two back-to-back podcast episodes about resources they believe might be helpful to institutions looking to make policy and procedure changes, to add to their learning resources, or to explore new perspectives on relationship building. Each episode references four resources. You can find Part 1 and Part 2 on the website or by subscribing to the BC Museums Association Podcast on your favourite podcasting app.

Koy and Leia aim to create additional podcasts covering a range of topics related to relationship building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations. This will include an upcoming series reviewing topics and themes explored in the recent TV series Rutherford Falls.

Online Courses: The BCMA is developing a series of new on-demand online courses to allow members to learn at their own pace, anywhere, anytime. Over the next 6 months, we will launch three new online courses: Online Accessibility 101, Videography 101 and Governance 101. Unlike BCMA webinars and virtual workshops that require live instruction and participation, these online courses will offer pre-recorded lessons, written materials, and online quizzes and assignments.

Online Accessibility 101 is being developed in partnership with SBLTN, a design and discussion brand focused on intersectionality, accessibility, and diversity through inclusive practices and advocacy. Laneen, the founder of SBLTN, will be one of the panellists at the “Accessible Design 101” panel during our 2021 Conference. We’ve very excited to be working with Laneen to help create new accessibility training resources for our members.

Honesty and transparency are a critical part of this work and we welcome our members’ feedback on how we can continue growing and improving. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts, please contact us at any time. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss how the BCMA can support your organization’s own justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work, we would be happy to hear from you. This work will take time, but together we can use the transformative power of museums to reinvent our sector for the betterment of everyone.