A Conversation with Lanae and Ravon on Creating Intentional Spaces in Museums
Ravon Ruffin is a D.C.-based museum consultant and creative. She received her M.A. in American Studies/Museums & Material Culture from the George Washington University, and B.S. in Anthropology from VCU. Urban sustainability, digital culture and Black Feminist discourse are the lenses through which she seeks to redefine the museum as a community space. She is interested in the acts of self-preservation social and digital media platforms inspire. She twitters @afroxmericana and grams @afroxmericana.
Lanae Spruce is currently the Manager of Social Media & Online Engagement at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is working to build the museum’s digital media presence to foster learning, creativity and shared discovery as a means to transform our understanding of the African American experience, American history, race, and modern society. She holds a master’s degree in Internet Marketing and is a curious creative interested in opportunities to connect the intersections of technology, race, social justice, and history. Follow her online @_Blackmuses
Instagram Story Transcript #MCN50
To @afroxmericana from @_BlackMuses.
Q1: I remember being so excited to find your blog! What inspired you to create an online space for brown girls in museums? #MCN50
A1: Being in academia, I was reminded everyday that people of color are often excluded from conversations on inclusion, often due to economic and racial factors that keep them from getting into the room. Later as an intern, I realized there are barriers that keep marginalized communities from even reaching the door. #MCN50
Q2: Is it important for marginalized people to see their stories and issues being confronted bycultural institutions in digital spaces? #MCN50
A2: Absolutely! Without visibility, it is hard to imagine yourself in the field. It is even more difficult to imagine yourself making an impact. Digital spaces allow people of color to explore their identities in ways that are not often reflected in history or culture at large. Cultural institutions have an obligation to their audiences. To ignore them in the digital landscape, is to do them a huge disservice. The online has become another entry into the museum, and must remain open to a multitude of stories and experiences. #MCN50
Q3: How can museums create intentional inclusive spaces and build community? #MCN50
A3: Intention is a great start. Many cultural institutions allow their privilege to go unchecked. I always say, the community must invite you in before you can determine what matters to them–not the other way around. If you have not listened to your communities needs, you’ve already excluded them from the space. It is then that you can craft programming around your museum that serves your audience. #MCN50
Q4: Being online all day may sometimes be exhausting, but it’s part of the job. What is your favorite recipe for self-care? #MCN50
A4: One of the most important aspects of self-care for me in online spaces is bringing my WHOLE self into the conversation. My Twitter bio reads “I prefer to be ratchet in institutional spaces,” as an acknowledgement of my full self. One aspect of myself does not exist without the other, and they often inform one another. My timeline is an ode to Beyonce and museum baddies. #MCN50
Q5: Give me a song that is the soundtrack to a typical day at work. #MCN50
A5: “Coconut Oil” by Lizzo. You can listen to it on our Brown Girls Museum Blog Spotify playlist after this conversation of course. But that song gets it! Between checking emails, drafting tweets, reading comments, following trends and diving into research, *pours coconut oil over entire life.* That song reminds me to check in on myself throughout the day, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s upbeat. #MCN50
To @_BlackMuses from @afroxmericana.
Q1: If you weren’t working in a museum, where would you be? MCN50
A1: Somewhere being fancy getting free lunch while sitting on my bouncy ball and petting my puppy! Yes, I’m at work. Lol. But seriously, I never thought that I’d find myself working in the museum field. It was by pure luck that I happened to land a job at the largest museum dedicated to African American history and culture in the world. I’m living a dream and honored to keep the stories of my ancestors alive through digital platforms. #MCN50
Q2: You are tasked with managing a social media account for a cultural institution, how have you strived to create inclusive spaces? #MCN50
A2: From the very beginning, I thought about how important it was to build a social media strategy that not only reflected the museum content, but celebrated that history and culture in a way that was not only authentic, but also empowering. I wanted someone to be able to see stories on our social media platforms, to not only learn about tragedies, but to be able to celebrate triumphs. One day we may tweet about the history of the “Po boy” and another we may encourage you to share memories of you and your momma tending to your kitchen with a hot comb over the stove. MCN50
Q3: Did you ever invent your own job or job title? #MCN50
A3: lol. Well, kinda. I think that I was able to show the value of social media as an engagement tool for our museum– and that later manifested into a social media department with 4 full-time staff members and is one of the largest museum social media teams. Full disclosure, I’m still hiring! Lol. But I have two interns to help us get through summer. MCN50
Q4: Pick one person that you rely on to help you do your job. #MCN50
A4: You. Duh. Seriously, it has been amazing working with you over the last year! I learned so much about art and museums and other smart stuff. I am happy that we are able to bounce ideas and think about news to do it #ForTheCulture. #MCN50
Q5: Tell me about presenting and attending your first MCN conference. How was it? #MCN50
A5: Omg. Literally, I finally felt at home! I found a space that was INTENTIONAL about making sure that i could bring my FULL self into a conference space. From the pronoun stickers on the badge, to the theme and presenters, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a conference. MCN is the place that I feel comfortable discussing the both the virtues of Black Twitter and the woes of getting staff to participate in social media projects.