Diversity in American Museums

This panel discusses diversity in today’s museums, focusing specifically on the impact of diversity on public trust and innovation, and the role of technology in engaging diverse communities. Museums are stewards of the nation’s history, art, and culture, and expected to constantly work to create social value in the communities they serve. In that regard, museums act as purpose trusts -created to serve specific purposes (usually related to stewardship and education) and not the needs of specific individuals. Additionally, in order for museums to effectively achieve their mission, they have to earn the trust of the public, engage diverse audiences, and continue to find innovative approaches to creating social value through their exhibitions and programs. But how can museums achieve these goals while they suffer from insularity and a lack of diversity? In 2015, a survey study by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation documented that “near-top-tier positions non-Hispanic whites constitute a whopping 84% while Asians represent 6%, Blacks 4%, and Hispanics 3%.” Not only that, but also museum audiences, board members, and constituents are overwhelmingly White, able-bodied, college-educated and affluent. Can some of the problems -- such as the lack of attendance, relevance, and innovation -- which face many museums today be linked to diversity? Workplace diversity is a major factor in how the public perceives the institution, and accordingly chooses to interact (or not to interact) with it. Additionally, workforce diversity ensures that there is a large pool of knowledge, skills, life experiences, perspectives, and expertise to help the institution face today’s challenges. This panel will benefit from a wealth of research in the business studies literature and practical examples from the museum world to unpack the complex relationships between diversity, public trust, audience engagement and innovation in the American museum sector. Speakers Session Leader : Haitham Eid, Assistant Professor/Interim Director, Southern University at New Orleans Co-Presenter : Fari Nzinga, ACLS Fellow/Public Policy Officer, New Orleans Museum of Art Co-Presenter : Sesthasak Boonchai, Digital Asset Manager, New Orleans Museum of Art MCN 2016 Presenting Sponsor: Piction New Orleans, LA