Diversity in museums: what change would you like to make?

28.02.2017
Transformers deadline is 7 March
As the deadline for Transformers: Influence and Transformers: Diversify approaches on 7 March, the Museums Association's (MA) programme manager for Transformers, Jess Turtle, and diversity leadership consultant at cuspinc.org, Sarah Pickthall, answer your questions about diversity in museums and the MA's Transformers: Diversify programme.


18022015-jess 22022017-sarah-pickthall

When we talk about diversity in museums, what do we mean?

Where is diversity located within our spaces, locations and our collections, and what can we do to develop it?

Are we happy to maintain the current state of play where diversity is still very much in the margins?

How much thinking of this kind around diversity is currently active and is it applied to the way that we develop relationships with people outside and inside our organisations?

The fully funded Transformers: Diversify programme is designed to help participants connect, reflect and initiate change around equality, diversity and inclusion in museums. You may identify as being from a diverse background yourself, or simply want to make change happen. What you will share is a journey that will give you a new perspective and network, and the confidence to take risks.

So what change would you make? What change can you make? Will you apply?

For the purpose of this discussion when the Museum Association refers to Diversity this is our definition:

Diversity includes the protected characteristics as defined by the Equalities Act 2010 but also includes others, such as socioeconomic background and status. It also includes and values diversity of perspectives and life experience.

The Equalities Law defines these groups as protected characteristics.

• race
• sex
• sexual orientation (whether being lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual)
• disability (or because of something connected with their disability)
• religion or belief
• being a transsexual person (transsexuality is where someone has changed, is changing or has proposed changing their sex – called ‘gender reassignment’ in law)
• having just had a baby or being pregnant
• being married or in a civil partnership (this applies only at work or if someone is being trained for work), and
• age (this applies only at work or if someone is being trained for work)
Apply now for the Transformers programme

Comments

Sorry, we are not accepting further comments on this page.
Sort by: Most recent - Most liked
28.02.2017, 14:00
OK. We're going to wrap up now - thank you all for your fantastic questions and contributions, and to our experts Jess and Sarah. We hope the conversation will continue, and that we will see engagement with the Transformers: Diversify programme to make meaningful change happen in the sector.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:58
Thanks everyone for your engagement! :) Would like to round off by saying that the Transformers programme will explore all of these sorts of questions and will bring together like minded colleagues to make change together in the sector.
Do think about putting your hat in the ring! :)
28.02.2017, 13:48
what are the ways forward post this discussion?
How can we meet to discuss possible collaborations?
28.02.2017, 13:48
How do we best diversify volunteers as a valuable resource?
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 14:03
Great to have this opportunity to explore these things with Jess and you all. We need more of it most definitely and Transformers will unpack and support so many great ways in which we can put equality and diversity central - people power! #Diversify #Influence programmes - deadline to apply 7th March. Make sure someone you know doesn't miss it.
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 14:01
It also about where you recruit for volunteers- many people want tangible experience for their c.vs and uni applications. Others may just be looking for a way to engage with something locally.
It's all about offer and where this offer is placed and what development do they get once they become volunteers?
Diverse volunteers can bring diverse networks...
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:59
Hi there Mary Ann Contact outsidein.org.uk re diversification of volunteers or Fabrica.org.uk who have a brilliant programme
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:52
Great question. As mentioned earlier one of our participants on the Transformers programme last year did a research project into exactly this! Alex Nicholson Evans at Birmingham Museums Trust.
Do get in touch with her, she'll be happy to share the findings.
28.02.2017, 14:09
Thank you, Jess
28.02.2017, 13:44
15 minutes to go. Keep those questions coming, and keep refreshing the page to see the responses!
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:41
Realistically anyone make change?
people have said to me they feel in their role they don't have the time these days or the agency in their own organisation
what are your thoughts on this and how can we address this?
28.02.2017, 13:54
I love this comment. Anyone can be the change. Ghandi advocated for us all to " Be the Change"

Look at what works well. What could work better, or be developed, Collect evidence to support viewpoint. Share this with colleagues, Managers etc

Be a champion for change.

We all have to start somewhere. You never know where the road will take us so one step at a time...
28.02.2017, 13:44
encouraging collaborations with small specialised arts companies to ensure the biggest impact
28.02.2017, 13:40
Will the transformer programme encourage collaborations with small specialised companies to ensure the biggest impact, and to link in with the ACE priorities also. Culture for all....
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:42
Transformers will definitely encourage that - one of the aims of the programme is to engage with experimental ideas both within and outside of the sector.
And it will be built upon priorities of ACE along with our other funders and of course, the MA's policy priority that Museums Change Lives.
28.02.2017, 13:46
Great how are the outside organisations sourced and matched up? Movema would love to share ideas that we have created and actually want to partner with museums across the UK
28.02.2017, 13:55
Ithalia- you might be interested in our dance and museums initiative- want to partner museums & local arts organisations. See pdsw website.
Anonymous
28.02.2017, 13:40
How can we diversify our audiences without being so prescriptive that we're in some way asking for a certain demographic? If we assume that there's no reason one person won't be interested in an exhibition the same as another, then is it unhelpful to continue to categorize? How do we find out what's at the root of certain people coming and others not?
Frances Reed
Events and Exhibitions Coordinator, Royal College of Nursing
28.02.2017, 14:03
In our current project to diversify our collections we are being very open about the gaps we want to fill. And so asking for materials, objects, stories from certain demographics - BME, LGBT, disabled nurses for example - has been well received so far. Being specific helps audiences see that their contributions are relevant.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:47
That's a great question. One of our Transformers from last year did a grat piece of research on why the people of Birmingham were not volunteering at Birmingham Museums Trust. Might be worth getting in touch. Alex Nicholson Evans.
Fiona Kingston
Strategy , SS Great Britain Trust
28.02.2017, 13:40
A major problem can be the limitations of your collection. We are aware that many people may not be interested in 19th and 20th century maritime history, and this may be directly due to their background/experience. So how do we make ourselves more accessible/relevant to new audiences, whilst maintaining the link to our collection?
Frances Reed
Events and Exhibitions Coordinator, Royal College of Nursing
28.02.2017, 13:57
Our collection here at the RCN is very nursing specific, so yes, perhaps not of direct interest to many who visit museums and galleries. The aim of our exhibitions here is to place these nursing stories and objects within a wider social history and under themes that many people can understand; women's history, or health care for example. We've got an exhibition coming up later this year on Diversity in Nursing, which will hopefully expand on audiences from all backgrounds. We've been quite open about gaps in our collections, and are welcoming donations and stories to fill those gaps.
Alistair Brown
Policy Officer, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:56
I think this is an issue that a lot of museums come up against , especially where collections are specialised. I agree with Ithalia that making the museum a more social space, hosting events and activities can be a great way of bringing different audiences in. It's often best to do these in partnership with other community organisations or similar. It takes time to build up the right relationships, but it can be done.

I also think it's worth having discussions with these groups about alternative interpretations of your collection - e.g 19th c maritime history is also the history of empire, which is hugely contested. Recognising different perspectives on these things is really important.

At the MA we're also working on a joint project with AIM looking at the non-financial barriers to museum attendance, and I think that it will have some really interesting results that we can use to think about increasing diversity of audiences, so keep an eye out for that later this year.
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:48
Fiona, I think there is always something relevant in a collection, it's how the collection 'speaks' to whom and in what way. Simple digital tech and play is an example of how easy it can be to pull people in, putting them in the picture. My all time favourite is http://vangoyourself.com/ - so great accessible designed by surfaceimpression.com
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:45
I think there are ways of working with different groups of people to revisit and draw new interpretations from collections. The collections trust revisiting archives toolkit it helpful for that.
28.02.2017, 13:43
There may be hidden stories that are there & you just aren't aware of them?
28.02.2017, 13:42
engaging activities linked with exhibitions increases access music, dance, drama, quiz etc
28.02.2017, 13:47
There are also examples of live enactors from a variety of different backgrounds
28.02.2017, 13:38
apologies if already raised.

what museums run an education programme that caters for families through the arts to address diversity?

Is this delivered on a weekly basis? linked in with exhibitions and city based activities?
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:56
Hi Ithalia, lots of great examples on the Museums Change Lives section of our website. :)
28.02.2017, 13:35
Jess, Sarah, there's a couple of questions at the foot of the thread that haven't been answered yet re subtitles and encouraging diversity.

And can you tell us a little more about how Transformers will promote diversity in museums and why people should apply?
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:57
Diversify – is a programme in particular that will develop diversity for the sector - no doubt. A programme that will put individual interests in challenging the status quo, supporting people to broker radical thinking and ideas that puts diversity and equality at the heart of museum best practice. You or people you know, museum volunteers, staff and those working as freelancers will bring a wealth of their diversity perspecitves into the frame through this dynamic new Transformers Strand. Applicants have until 7th March to apply – it’s up to 9 days contact time, a 2 day residential, action learning, a network, coaching and more. Application entails questions and a short vimeo film pitch - fun! Here’s the link for programme guidelines. Do pass it on. It's too good to miss. Shttp://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1198079
28.02.2017, 13:35
How could small museums get involved in the networking necessary for sharing ideas & practice?
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:37
They should apply to Transformers!!! :) The programme offers an amazing network of ideas sharing - sometimes ideas stealing :)
We'd love to see lots of applications from small museums. Sometimes greater more effective change can happen in a smaller institution.
28.02.2017, 13:45
Smaller museums often are able to change and embed practice much quicker due to small team. They can communicater much easier, develop and build relationships and share effectively. Evidencing long term impact is an area for development due to administrative burden/limited tesources
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:32
Still 15 minutes to go so do keep your questions coming! :)
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:29
Elke - unless people see themselves reflected then it's going to be tough. Quite often the reluctance or fear to engage with people on their terms, what access and meaningful engagement looks like. Too often we're too quick to assume what we think people want and then feel grumpy when people don't warm to our organisaitonal way of developing things!
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:35
So true Sarah. :)
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:25
Hi All, don't forget to refresh your page or hit F5 to see the new comments and responses- thanks!
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:21
Keep your questions coming. Just repsonded to Shelley Boden re: access measures and accessibility for all and tech as part of this. We're hoping for #Diversify applicants to share their thinking on how best to radicalise, refresh and embed their ideas into and with the museums they work with. Just over a week to get your bid in. https://www.museumsassociation.org/download?id=1198079
28.02.2017, 13:20
Thanks for all your questions. Jess and Sarah will be on hand to answer these and any other queries until 1.45pm.
Elke Sigg
Director
28.02.2017, 13:12
Hi Sarah & Jess,
What change is needed to get a more diverse audience even interested to visit a museum? Changing the perception of museums.
Do museums of the future need to become more of a place were creativity is not only viewed but also become a platform were creativity happens?
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:20
Hi Elke, absolutely. I think as long as museums are purely about 'looking' (and many are less about that now) then we'll have difficulties. I like to think about museums as places of knowing, where conversations can happen and knowledge is shared, from a variety of perspectives and life experience...
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:11
Hi guys, I'm here a little early so I'm going to start answering some of the brilliant questions so far before things get busy! :)
Marc Steene
Director Outside In, Pallant House Gallery
28.02.2017, 12:57
Hi Jess and Sarah,

From the experience of running Outside In and Step Up, both at Pallant House Gallery and in partnership with other museums and galleries nationally, I think the most effective tool to enable a wider engagement is to relinquish control of some of the important decisions the sector makes as to what is collected and shown and how it is interpreted. This could be the authorship or voices used to interpret collections, through to redefinitions of what has cultural value and should collected and passed on to future generations.

I also believe that there is significant opportunity in sharing the skills and responsibilities inherent in museums and galleries to enable a more diverse work force. This is the motivation behind our Step Up programme, moving engagement beyond the passive participant in a programme of activity to someone who can lead in interpreting and sharing their knowledge in a way tailored to their needs.

What are your thoughts as to the challenges of truly opening the doors and how do we support museums and galleries to engage with driving a greater community involvement and rationale and how can the sector best support this?

Marc
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:25
Marc Steene, i agree. For me it's about diversification of the workforce and a strategy that says that a museum is nothing without a diversity of people engaging with and reflecting that diversity within programmes and collections on their terms. Building engagement from grassroots: volunteering, advocating - what's in it for the people? Ask them! and get Artists involved too. www.outsidein.org.uk is the link Katy.
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:12
I agree that moving beyond passive participation is very rewarding on both sides of the relationship though feel there is a degree of fear for some of us in the sector around how to do this effectively. Especially when funding is so 'results' and 'success' driven. Funders need to need to address this.
Our Transformers strand Influence will explore these skills about working with communities using the Our Museum model.
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:07
Hi Mark, do you have a link to Outside In and Step Up this or any resources?
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 12:56
Posting on behalf of Anna Cornelius,
Communications and Engagement Manager, ARTIST ROOMS, National Galleries of Scotland and Tate

How can we address and prioritise questions and challenges around diversity that could go under the radar?
I am concerned that (very worthy!) work on diversity can be driven by the interests of organisations, funding bodies or individuals - and I am interested in how to identify issues that might not receive as much attention / resources.

How can we open up research? Or go about asking visitors, when they might not consider speaking up about what affects them?
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:36
Anna Cornelius, great question about how to ask people. Use artists! They know best how to create accessible engaging ways to encourage people say what they want and feel. I think the key is diversification of the workforce at every level, seeing people volunteering and at the helm in different ways will result in more interesting diversity misdeameanours arising.
Deepa Shastri
Talks Programme Manager, Stagetext
28.02.2017, 13:28
It helps when organisations are set-up for the visitors. For example: Stagetext was set up by visitors themselves (three deaf theatre lovers who were frustrated on the lack of text base access in arts and culture), and then progressed to become an NPO. We are driven by visitors to address a lot of the underlying issues. Other charities and community groups can help with this advise.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:16
Great question. At the MA we believe that inclusion should mean ALL the characteristics not just one or two. By thinking about diversity in a broad way and including parts of people's identity that aren't legislated for EG social class, we can be more effective.
I think if we make relationships with people that have integrity, then we can have those conversations which are more difficult.
On the Transformers programme we'll be looking at what Allyship means for museum professionals and how we can address things that aren't always above the radar. :)
28.02.2017, 11:32
Hi Sarah, hello Jess,

I'm interested in making museums and galleries more accessible to everyone, and in particular I work with blind and partially sighted children and families.

Some of the most successful/most used resources I've worked on have effectively worked as Trojan horses where we've emphasised the benefits to all visitors so they reach our intended audience (e.g. the use of the PenFriend at Hove Museum and Gallery to provide an audio trail of sound effects for blind and partially sighted children).

1. How do we ensure that the resources we create - whether audio trails, apps or large format handouts - reach the target audiences?
2. Do you think we should promote access resources so they're seen as for specific groups - or not?

Thanks, Shelley
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:15
Hi Shelley - i'm with you re: Trojan horses. Accessible measures can hold so much for all of us.

Question 1 - promote your diverse tech approaches and thinking with disabled people, let their networks do the talking! Also, good lead in times across different social media platforms, tasters on website and as trails n apps are being made, teasing people in.

Question 2 - specific groups will look for the things that will make a museum trip accessible and reflect their needs, but for so many of us accessible trails, apps, large formats are just what we need too to engage and enjoy too!
Anonymous
28.02.2017, 11:19
What examples of diversification best practice are you aware of from other sectors that museums can learn from?
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:35
I think http://www.diversecity.org.uk/ are doing some really interesting work and collaborations
28.02.2017, 13:24
Think the dance organisation does this well- I'm keen to get more local museums working with dance - can help with many of the protected characteristics as non- textual.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:22
I think that we can learn a lot from other parts of the arts. There are some amazing theatre companies for example that practice inclusion. This goes beyond thinking of diversity as an add on or a challenge but to making environments and cultural products that benefit everyone. Check out Graeae Theatre Company for example. :)
28.02.2017, 13:28
I have been working with a NPO dance organisation on this and there was a performance session in Bristol focussed on diversity but there is a way to go for different sectors to understand the way each other works.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:33
Very true. I think changes in funding and policy will help with that. Having worked across the arts I'm keen to see more interdisciplinary practice. :)
28.02.2017, 13:38
We have been working on a dance and museums initiative which has a network element to encourage this- diversity seen as a big part of it.
Katy Swift
Project Assistant - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 11:18
Posting on behalf of Alex Bird, Sector Development Officer
Museum Development North West

What do you think the barriers are to the successful diversification of the sectors workforce?
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:24
Hi Alex, our research last year found that lots of mid career people who self identify as diverse find it hard to navigate organisations and there is therefore a lot of churn and people leave. We're addressing this with Transformers as well as other initiatives.
Katy Swift
Project Assistant - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 11:18
Posting on behalf of Alex Bird, Sector Development Officer
Museum Development North West

What is the sector doing right in terms of diversification?
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:28
Lots of good initiatives out there eg ACE Changemakers and the MA's programmes.
I think a real powerful thing is coming from informal networks as well such as Museum Detox.
Frances Reed
Events and Exhibitions Coordinator, Royal College of Nursing
28.02.2017, 10:20
Hi there,
Here at the RCN Library and Archives we have just launched a collections drive. The aim is to expand our collections to better represent the diversity of the nursing community, now and throughout history. We are specifically looking for items, stories, documents relating to LGBTQ nurses, BME nurses and disabled nurses. The collecting drive will conclude with an exhibition launching in Autumn this year, as well as a more diverse archive.
It would be fab to get word out about this project to this group. I hope to contribute to the webchat, but I will be out at an LGBT event promoting this project. So I will do my best to join!
More info about our project here https://www.rcn.org.uk/library/collections/diversity-collecting
Thanks and hope to be in touch,

Frances
Katy Swift
Project Assistant - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 11:23
sounds really interesting Frances- I'm happy to help promote on twitter too.
Have you considered using Transformers Diversify to help shape and support your project as well as your own professional development? https://www.museumsassociation.org/professional-development/transformers/transformers-2016-18
Chloe Hughes
Community Engagement Officer, Cornwall Museums Partnership
27.02.2017, 20:40
How can we better foster meaningful and sustained diversity throughout, from visitors to staff, partners to trustees? What methods have others used to promote a more diverse culture across their organisations?( I would love to hear others successes whether they are shorter term solutions or lead to longer term change). And in focusing on developing a more diverse culture what measures should we put in place to ensure that we are continually reviewing, monitoring and striving towards ever greater diversity that truly reflects the communities we exist within?
Frances Reed
Events and Exhibitions Coordinator, Royal College of Nursing
28.02.2017, 14:13
We're trying out a collections drive which will culminate in an exhibition later this year on Diversity. Identifying gaps in our collections and then doing a call for donations has helped us reach out to new audiences. The aim is that eventually we will have an archive collection which is a lot more diverse and a programme of events which reflects the wide range of people in nursing and its history.
Katy Swift
Project Co-ordinator - Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:50
It needs to run though as a vein within organisations. Its about effective leadership, where anyone in an organisation is given an opportunity to have their opinions and ideas inputted. This needs to be for the workforce and participants.
i think the Battersea Arts Centre Scratch method is an interesting approach.
I think our whole job descriptions and job adverts need to be re thought in our sector- and where we advertise them...we need to be more visible and the work we do.
Also pay review!
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:10
Great questions Chloe and I know that in Cornwall socio-economic diversity is particularly relevant. I think that diversity initiatives alone are not enough. In order to sustain diverse orgs, we need to make sure that our organisations are inclusive. I would love to see unconscious bias training as a norm in the sector, for example.
I also think that the sector needs better data capture. At the moment we don't have anything concrete to base initiatives on.
Do consider you or a colleague putting in an application to Transformers Diversify. We are very keen to have rural diversity represented in the cohort!
Anonymous
27.02.2017, 00:48
1) How do you encourage a diversity of viewpoints? It's not enough to have staff from disparate backgrounds if they all think alike.

2) How can we reach diverse audiences with language and other constraints at play?
Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 14:10
1) are you sure they think alike? not sure that will ever truly be the case. so often the diversity within volunteers and/or bringing in ambassadors from across your programmes will share their lived experience. Open days, afternoons or offers of space for community groups will filter diversity through.
2) keep it simple. also challenge the language used across print, web, social media, use video to show real people advocating their eg route to the museum, what it's like when they get there. Talk to people f2f rather than at them in ways they can't grasp
Deepa Shastri
Talks Programme Manager, Stagetext
24.02.2017, 14:05
1) Why are subtitled events and subtitled content not viewed as a necessity for the 70% of 70 year olds who have a hearing loss? Older people rarely learn sign language and don’t always wear hearing aids.
2. Is it a possibility for museums to generate a subtitling budget from ticket sale profits?
3. Should museums work more closely with charities/community groups who can provide expert advice on removing access barriers for older audiences i.e. Stagetext who specialises in subtitling access for cultural events?

Sarah Pickthall
Transformers- Partner
28.02.2017, 13:42
Deepa. I think you are so right, resourcing captions, text et al needs subsidy and ticket sales can meet these things, if prioritised. i would say this was good business sense too. Stagetext do such great work and are a font of knowledge, but regular connective softer meets ups, tasters, try outs and spaces welcoming elders are good to host too, not only will they share their opinions about what works and doesn't but i bet they'll have alot to say about the collections and programmes too.
Jess Turtle
Project Manager – Transformers, Museums Association
28.02.2017, 13:40
1. I don't think we're there yet sadly. Subtitled events and content should be mandatory I think.
2. Yes they could, it's about shifting the business model slightly to ensure that access is a budget staple, not an afterthought.
3. In short Deepa, yes! I think museums could work more closely with orgs such as stagetext.
Frances Reed
Events and Exhibitions Coordinator, Royal College of Nursing
28.02.2017, 10:23
Having had StageText at many of our past events, the feedback we get is fantastic. Subtitles have made these events 100% accessible to deaf audiences, as well as enhanced accessibility for those who have difficulty hearing. It even benefits audiences who are hearing, but are new to the themes of the talk, and so subtitles provide additional clarity of terminology.