This year's TAM conference, with its theme of Strength in Unity, saw several sessions focused on questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion, including the facilitator-led roundtables where participants had the chance to discuss these issues together in an informal setting. We are sharing some of the insights and questions that came out of those discussions through the newsletter: this month is focused on the Collections and Curators Roundtable.
The Collections and Curators Roundtable focused on developing inclusivity and diversity in collections and curatorial practices. A lively discussion brought forth a variety of ideas of how to achieve this within our institutions. As with the two previous roundtable summaries, one of the big points was working with your community to find ways to represent those that are underserved. For instance, we can identify groups who may not be represented within our collections and use crowdsourcing as a tool for collecting material culture and research. Creating specific projects that highlight and reflect populations not currently represented, and talking to them about what they want to see within our exhibits and programs, will help us to share their stories and related material culture in a more inclusive way – this recognition of their experience will also help these communities to connect more to our institutions.
It is also important within our collections and curatorial roles to strive to listen to and understand the voices of the people we are representing and working to include. Indeed, we need to recognize that there are certain things that the group of origin needs to say, things that the experts shouldn’t say – experts aren’t always the experts! This also gives us a chance to identify the stories that will resonate with different groups or to find out what they feel is missing from the larger story. Speaking to the community directly means that we can establish a clearer path to eliminating bias.
We can also create processes within our behind-the-scenes work that help us to recognize and address issues of inclusion and diversity. For example, asking questions such as Who is included in these conversations? and Is the story balanced? will help us to more clearly analyze how we – as curators or exhibit developers – approach our subjects. When designing our exhibits and programs, it is also imperative that we consider possible accessibility needs for visitors and to address these needs as much as we possibly can.
Inclusion and diversity are also important factors in relation to our staff – these are not just about our visitors. Roundtable participants highlighted a variety of issues to consider, including looking at how accessible collections or work spaces are for staff who have mobility or other limitations and the ways this might impact hiring; reviewing our hiring practices so that we are searching for new hires more widely with less internal hiring; and looking for ways to provide paid internships in order to open up these opportunities to a larger group of people.
As with previous roundtables, the Collections and Curators discussion really underlined the importance of always working to get feedback from the people who are impacted by the accessibility or content being developed. Remember: these sources will provide valuable insight!
Next month we'll share the discussion from the Docent and Tour Guides Roundtable. You can also access the notes from all four roundtable sessions here.
2020 AASLH Suffrage Value Statement
Call for Public Comment
The AASLH Women’s History Affinity Group is developing a 2020 Suffrage Value Statement, with best practices and principles for the upcoming Centennial Commemoration of the 19th Amendment. The group is surveying the field for comments to help develop the statement. Deadline to submit comments: August 15, 2018. You can participate through this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/8ZW7LM9.
Session Proposals #TAM2019!
It is time to start thinking about what session you want to offer for the TAM 2019 conference. This year’s theme is Connect, Cultivate, Sustain. The Call for Proposals will be released in August. So be sure to watch your email, the TAM website, or the TAM Facebook page for more information – and start thinking of great sessions to share next year!