The conversation

Rachel Thain-Gray, Christine McLean, Issue 118/04, p17, 01.04.2018
How can equality, diversity and inclusion be embedded in the museum sector ?
Dear Christine: Action to embed equality, diversity and inclusion in the museum sector requires proactive activity on all fronts of what I call the “holistic” museum – governance, leadership, recruitment, programming, communications, audiences, visitors and participants, and collections and interpretation. To support the move towards sustainable and informed change, our Equality in Progress project is using inter-sectional feminism as a critical framework theory to interrogate museums as organisations, with the aim of increasing intersectional understandings of inequality. We want to support those working in museums, particularly senior managers and boards, to develop better awareness of the systems of inequality at work. Best Wishes, Rachel

Dear Rachel: I agree this needs to be the holistic museum and it’s refreshing that you are taking this approach to address these issues. But isn’t it frustrating that we are still grappling with how to be more inclusive and diverse, and how to tackle inequality in the sector? Perhaps you could say a bit more about intersectional feminism and why this could work as a methodology? Is this a framework that will be new to senior managers and how do you think this will enable real and lasting change to be made? Best wishes, Christine

Dear Christine: Sociologist Joan Acker said the combination of social movements and legislation outside organisations, with active support from insiders, can change organisational inequality. Her concept of intersectional “inequality regimes” is informed by Kimberlé Crenshaw’s analyses of multiple sources of oppression, and the institutional use of identity to exclude and privilege. Crenshaw says our movements for change are less likely to fracture if we increase our understanding of how identities and power work together. Most senior managers won’t be aware of this work unless frameworks for analysing inequality inform what they do. Best wishes, Rachel

Dear Rachel: It sounds as if there is robust academic research to underpin this different approach, but are there examples of practical application and best practice? Senior managers and board members may want to see evidence that this has worked, before investing time and resources to run with what is a new model to them. I’d also be interested in the impact on and implications for frontline staff, and how these theories translate into more accessible language and examples – or case studies – that staff can relate to in their work. Best wishes, Christine

Dear Christine: Glasgow Women’s Library operates from an intersectional feminist approach in the sector. And within women’s equalities organisations, this is also a tried and tested way of working. We have a researcher who is documenting our practice to share at our conference and in our report in June. For the past 18 months, we’ve been delivering training for cultural organisations (really a process of consciousness-raising) to support staff to connect with their personal values, analyse their socio-political identity and privilege, and to nurture empathic responses to and analysis of the reality of lived experiences of exclusion. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Best wishes, Rachel

Dear Rachel: This sounds like an interesting and timely new approach from Glasgow Women’s Library. Hopefully, our conversation will spark interest and response from across the sector and across the UK, possibly unearthing more case studies and examples of good practice in this area. It’s a commitment that politically, morally, ethically and legally, the sector should make and one that, increasingly, our funders will be scrutinising to measure our impact on society. Best wishes, Christine

Rachel Thain-Gray is the project coordinator for the Equality in Progress project at Glasgow Women’s Library

Christine McLean is the community engagement manager at National Museums Scotland and a Museums Association representative for Scotland


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Guillaume Evrard
Digital content officer
30.05.2018, 20:52
Catching up on earlier issue, and really pleased with this conversation. I usually feel like the format of the "comment" is rigid and unhelpful, with both contributors trying to advance points side by side rather than engaging into a genuine conversation.
Here, I really like how Christine picks up Rachel's theoretical framework to explore it further, and the conversation reads and sounds constructive and helpful.